The EFF has announced that it will introduce a private member’s bill in Parliament calling for the cancellation of all student debt.
In a statement on Wednesday, it said it noted with “shock and awe” the number of students who have not received their qualifications as a result of debt they owe to institutions of higher learning.
‘Debts must be scrapped’
It added, “The EFF demands that all of these debts be scrapped so that these students are able to receive their hard-earned qualifications and make meaningful contributions to society.
“The EFF will be presenting a Students’ Debt Cancellation Private Member’s Bill to ensure the cancellation of all student debt as the most workable solution to a crisis that hampers knowledge production and commodifies education.”
In a reply to questions from the EFF, Higher Education Minister Dr Blade Nzimande revealed that more than 106,000 students have not received their qualifications over the past 10 years due to student debt.
He added that these students collectively owe institutions of higher learning more than R10.4 billion.
‘Predominantly black students’
EFF said institutions that have the highest amounts of debt owed to them also have students who are “predominantly black.” Therefore, student debt is an “obstacle to development and transformation.”
“The implications of these students not having access to their qualifications [are] far-reaching not only on themselves as individuals, but [also] on national and continental development prospects,” it added.
The party’s leader, Julius Malema, also urged the government and institutions of higher learning to scrap student debt in his Youth Day address in June last year.
“Cancel all student debt and reintegrate all students who were excluded on the basis of finance. Further, all institutions must issue degrees and certificates that have been withheld on the basis of non-payment of fees,” he said.
“It is about time that commercial banks, government, and institutions of higher learning review and consider the cancellation of academic loans for new workers entering the labour market and all those who are sitting at home,” labour federation COSATU also said at the time.
However, in his response to a South African Union of Students (SAUS) letter of demands earlier this month, Nzimande said institutions “also have to remain financially sustainable in order to continue to operate effectively.”
“The historic debt of National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) qualifying students is being addressed through a process between NSFAS and institutions,” he added.