Can we do free higher education properly? – Discussions between Peter Wesseloo & Kamogelo Phage
Free Education, what could we do?
Free education is a tender subject in South Africa at this current stage in time. Discussions around free education have caused an uproar within our society and it seems that you are either for the #FeesMustFall movement or you are against the movement, you are either standing in solidarity with the students or you are infuriated with how they are going about their stand against government. Let me just clarify something, this is not an endorsement of some kind or something condemning the student and their leaders. This was purely written based on a discussion between two people who are trying to look at Free Education from a different perspective.
As a country we can we put billions of Rands into free education and pump out hundreds of thousands of students only to find out that they have a qualification but there are no jobs in the field that they studied? There is a surplus of certain professions and a lack in others. Most people want to go to higher institutions of learning to study a degree that will allow them to earn big money, yet not many people want to go study to be an artisan. Everyone wants to be a lawyer or a doctor but no one wants to be an electrisation or a plumber.
What we got to understand is that universities aren’t as in touch with the labour market as a Trade Unions are. Trade Unions have the ability to understand what is happening within the labour market and with certain tools they are able to directly see where there is a surplus or lack of people in certain professions.
Countries like Germany, Belgium and Netherlands are big on Trade Unionism. Based on models used in those countries South Africans can look at empowering our Trade Unions to build technical colleges and uplifting their members in the right direction. A direction where a member would know their job is safe and they have counsel whenever a problem arises. Trade Unions would be able to not only grow their membership base but be able to educate their members, form a close bond with their members and ensure their members that they are there for them.
So who should be responsible for Free Education? Is it the government? Private Sector? Banks? Should individuals bear the financial responsibility to educate themselves and their children? There is not concrete answer to this question. But what we do know is that Free Higher Education is possible but who has the ability to do it right? Is the Government truly in touch with the labour market? Do the banks know that there is a shortage of nurses? Are private sectors actively looking at empowering the uneducated and work hand-in-hand with them throughout their careers? Honesty the only type of organisation that comes to mind when one asks themselves this question is a Trade Union. But not just any Trade Union, it needs to be a Trade Union for the people.