The higher education crisis in SA – lasting or trivial solutions

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HEI fees crisis

HEI fees crisis – HEI economic crisis

Today will see the Education Spring continue in South Africa. I wonder if the ANC-lead, democratically-elected government will take its people seriously at last. Or if the solutions sought will be in-the-box, and trivial. Given that the ANC, under Jacob Zuma, is not known for taking people seriously or looking for lasting solutions to anything, I fear that they see the symptom (widespread protest over fees) as the crisis, and the real crisis (access to affordable, quality higher education by qualified individuals from all walks of life) will pass unnoticed. The symptoms can be patched, leaving the real crisis unsolved.

This situation requires real out-of-the box thinking, both for long term and short term resolution. Yesterday, I posted some ideas that are definitely out of the box. Some others that one could think of are:

  • Establish a war team, with a lifetime of not less than 3 years. Task them with finding long term solutions. Include the 10 wealthiest people in South Africa, and the 5 wealthiest South Africans living abroad, as well as 15 of the smartest students you can locate in SA universities. The crazier the people, the better. Task them with coming up with wild and crazy solutions that are innovative and risky. Include the Minister of Higher Education and the Minister of Finance, but no other politicians. It should report to the President.
  • Special tax credits for innovative new companies (think SpaceX, Tesla as examples) that have real technological innovations to establish themselves in South Africa and support higher through work-and-study bursaries.
  • Restructure the skills levy, there are significant funds available for re-purposing. Remove the narrow focus of the skills levy that prevents the funds from being used, leading to exploitable surpluses.
  • Introduce a “wealth tax” (sensu Thomas Piketty – but you probably can’t actually tax wealth per se, but some easily measurable manifestation of it could be taxed, for example inheritance), and provide tax benefit for bequeathing significant funds to higher education funding.
  • Independently of the war team, establish a similar group with a focus on solving corruption.
  • Also, independently of the war team, establish a similar group with a mandate to find a way to make South Africa into the most innovative nation in the world, and scour the earth for the people who can make it so.

What we need is for people to toss out as many crazy ideas as possible. Somewhere among them will be some that will work. We cannot leave this to government. It is up to the crazy people in society to find a solution and then tell it to government, and hold them accountable for taking action.

Perhaps we also need a Crazy people with solutions spring.


I just read on News24 that

The presidency has released a statement saying that President Jacob Zuma will meet with the management and leadership of universities as well as student leaders on Friday, 23 October 2015, to discuss the stalemate with regards to university fee increases.

Calling it “stalemate with regards to university fee increases” trivialises the challenge, and does not bode well for long term solutions.