WSF (1997): “Higher education: Government cuts exclude the poor”

WSF (1997): “Higher education: Government cuts exclude the poor”

From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 3, number 1, first quarter 1997. Complete PDF is here

Last year students from universities and technicon protested against racism on campus, fee hikes and financial and academic exclusions. If the government goes ahead with its plan to drastically cut funds for higher education, students will be facing the same problems this year. Conditions will probably get much worse for students from working class backgrounds.


The government says it has very little money for education in general. The government tells students from higher education to be happy with their lot and not to complain about the funding cuts. The government says that if they give any more funds to higher education the government will have to take money away from the other levels of education (primary and secondary education)

The argument that there is no money for education is a lie!

We know that this country does have wealth. Every year we see the bosses make record profits. Telkom made R6 billion profit in 1996.

The reason why the government does not give more money to education is not because it it is broke. It is because the government does not want to spend money on education and health. This is part of governments’ economic strategy- “GEAR”

In the past the government contributed 60% towards of the total cost for higher education. This is not a lot if one compares this figure to other African countries who pay up to 100% of the higher education budget. In fact, the South African government is ranked amongst the five countries in the world who contribute the least to higher education. In 1997, this will get even worse.


The government argues that the main reason behind the budget cuts is to address the inequalities in higher education caused by Apartheid by shifting funds to historically Black universities (HBUs). Clearly these inequalities need to be addressed as HBUs are extremely under funded, severely lack resources and in some cases are overcrowded. Many HBUs also have to pay back massive debts to the State.

Despite this, the government plans to cut back on HBUs funding. For example, the University of the Western Cape may have to deal with a 27 million subsidy cut. These cut backs on funds will not address the inequalities of the past. Cut backs will only worsen conditions and place these HBUs under severe financial pressure. HBUs need more money not funding cuts!


Historically black tertiary institutions will not be the only to suffer the funding cuts. Workers staff and students, especially black students from working class backgrounds, will also suffer.

Students will have to pay high fees for their courses and residences. These students will have no where to turn for financial help because bursaries will be slashed. Students will also face academic problems as many courses and academic support programs will be discontinued due to the funding cuts.

This means that us the workers and the poor are financially excluded from higher education because we can not afford to attend. Also, without academic support, many students will not be able to cope with their work and will face academic exclusions.

Workers and academic staff may face retrenchment and lay off. Wages and salaries, which are in many cases low to begin with, will not improve


It is clear that cutting back university and technikon funds will not benefit historically black universities, students, staff and workers. It is also clear that the government has the money and does not have to cut funds. Therefore, we must resist the higher education budget cuts!

All progressive student bodies should unite with staff and workers to resist the fund cuts on a national level. We Demand:
— An end to any tertiary education subsidy cuts!
— Increase the education budget (for all levels of education)