Deputy President Ramaphosa’s replies to questions in the National Assembly, Cape Town
Answer 1: On skills development training to South African citizens in Countries Abroad
Most structured bilateral mechanisms between South Africa and other countries provide for cooperation on educational matters.
The Department of Higher Education is the line function department responsible for funding, administering and regulating national policy around international scholarships and for maintaining a database on opportunities offered in this respect.
These training opportunities take a variety of different forms. These opportunities also differ regarding duration, cost, recruitment criteria, qualifications and logistical arrangements.
As the President, Deputy President and Ministers travel to other countries we always seek to open opportunities for our young people for training and skills acquisition.
One example is the offer from Algeria for nine scholarships to South Africa for the 2015-2016 academic year. Another example, is the agreement between South Africa and China for the training of 2,000 South Africans in various fields of cooperation.
During 2015, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce provided training opportunities to South Africans with minimal financial cost in various fields. Another significant programme is the medical training programme in Cuba.
The programme started in 1996 as a solidarity programme offered by Cuba to provide 80 scholarships a year to students to study medicine, with full costs to the Cuban Government. In 2012, we reached agreement with the Cuban Government to expand the programme.
In terms of the expanded programme, the South African government finances the costs of the programme. Over 3,000 South African students are currently studying medicine in Cuba. Of the students sent to Cuba, over 460 have already qualified as doctors.
Candidates for this programme are selected by provincial governments, with a focus on candidates from disadvantaged backgrounds. Human resource development is an increasingly significant element of South Africa’s bilateral international relations.
We are continuing to seek opportunities for young South Africans to study abroad and have been encouraged by the response of our many partner countries.
The Department of Higher Education and Training is working with the Department of International Relations and Cooperation and other affected departments to improve the coordination and management of the increasing number of training opportunities.
I thank you.
Answer 2: The status of negotiations in South Sudan
In August 2015, the parties to the conflict in South Sudan signed a peace agreement that set in motion the process to end the conflict in the country.
The signatories to the agreement met from 21 October to 3 November under the auspices of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD). The meeting was intended to resolve outstanding issues on the implementation of the permanent ceasefire and operationalisation of the institutions provided for in the peace agreement.
The signatories – consisting of the SPLM in Juba, the SPLM in Opposition and the SPLM Former Detainees – also discussed the timelines for the return to Juba of the groups still outside the country.
The signatory parties committed themselves to build confidence and to ensure security is provided to leaders and citizens in South Sudan. These latest developments follow the signing on 21 January 2015 of the Arusha Reunification Agreement.
The Arusha Agreement commits the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) to rebuilding and democratising the movement to promote national harmony and end the conflict.
The agreement commits the movement to expedite efforts to end the war and to enhance the values and culture of democracy, unity and development. According to the agreement, SPLM leaders are required to formulate policies that allow a culture of tolerance and the practice of internal democracy.
In accordance with the Arusha Agreement, preparations are now underway to convene an extra-ordinary National Convention to discuss its constitution, manifesto and code of ethics.
As members would be aware, Dr Riek Machar is and continues to be one of the significant stakeholders in the ongoing endeavours to bring peace and stability to South Sudan and reunite the SPLM.
As the co-guarantors of the Arusha Agreement, Chama Cha Mapinduzi of Tanzania and the African National Congress will continue to reach out and to engage all the SPLM factions and their leaders, Dr Riek Machar included, not to lose the momentum and to remain seized with the resolution of differences through peaceful means.
I thank you.
Answer 3: On funding of universities
The challenge of funding higher education in South Africa has taken centre stage in recent weeks. We want to welcome the fact that the issue has been raised sharply by students protesting against proposed tuition fee increases.
It was also extensively discussed at the 2nd Higher Education Transformation Summit held in Durban on 15 October.
It was to address this critical issue that President Jacob Zuma convened a meeting on 23 October with vice-chancellors, chairpersons of university councils, presidents of student representative councils and representatives of student organisations.
As we all know the meeting agreed that there will be no increase of university fees in 2016. Government has set up a Presidential Task Team to consider the short-term implications for the 2016 academic year, including both the zero percent increase and the current NSFAS funding shortfall.
The medium- to longer-term funding of the system also needs to be addressed. This cannot be confined to university education, but must cover the whole post-school education and training sector, including TVET colleges and Community Education and Training Colleges.
The Department of Higher Education and Training has quantified the funding shortfall over the medium-term to ensure that National Development Plan targets are met for the baseline funding of universities and TVET colleges.
Parliament, through the Standing Committee on Appropriations, has been informed of the current underfunding of the post-school education and training system. Government will have to consider all the facts and consider how to reprioritise funding to ensure stability and growth of the system.
It will also need to consider ways in which affordable higher education for all, including free education for the poor, can be made available.
President Jacob Zuma is considering setting up a commission that will deliberate on the long-term issues and make recommendations The developments of the past few weeks provide an opportunity for all social partners to work together to address the challenges in the higher education sector in a sustainable and comprehensive way.
Structures like the Human Resource Development Council will need to be involved in this process. Not only does the HRDC include representatives from key sectors of society. It can also draw on a significant range of expertise and experience in the field of education and skills development.
We have an opportunity to fundamentally transform higher education in South Africa. We invite all South Africans to be involved in determining the form and direction that this critical sector should take.
I thank you.
Answer 4: On government plan to address the skills shortage with reference to artisans, technicians and engineers
The training of artisans, technicians and engineers are priorities of the Department of Higher Education and Training and the Human Resource Development Council.
Government aims to produce 24,000 competent artisan candidates by 2020, as part of the effort to achieving the National Development Plan target of producing 30,000 competent artisans annually by 2030.
Much work has been undertaken to consolidate and standardise the artisan training, recognition and qualification system. So that we have a better view of what is happening in the artisan trade, we have set up a National Artisan Development Support Centre to specifically manage all artisan data.
The significant investment in Technical and Vocational Education and Training colleges is aimed, among other things, to produce artisans in sufficient numbers and with the skills and expertise our economy needs.
Government has produced a policy for public comment on Artisan Recognition of Prior Learning. This policy focuses on the up-skilling of workers who, for a number of years, have been working as assistant artisans without a formal qualification.
It is also developing a strategy on the quality and improvement of trade tests and artisan development.
There is ongoing engagement by the Department of Higher Education and Training with artisan development stakeholders, including business, industry, labour and other government departments, to cooperate on issues of artisan development.
The Department has prioritised the recapitalisation of the Institute for the National Development of Learnerships, Employment Skills and Labour Assessments through the renewal of its old infrastructure system and modernisation of trade testing machinery.
Strategies aimed to increase the graduate contribution in engineering include engagement with professional bodies like the Engineering Council of South Africa.
A Joint Engineering Education Working Group between the Department of Higher Education and Training and the Engineering Council has been established to ensure that engineering skills needs are addressed and that the quality output of appropriate engineering professionals is met.
It also provides information in relation to the current demand experienced in the engineering profession.
The implementation of the Presidential National Infrastructure Plan provides an opportunity to develop these critical skills. Work has been done to identify the priority managerial and professional occupations needed to direct, design and construct these major infrastructure projects.
Occupational teams for each of the identified occupations have been established, consisting of representatives drawn from relevant employers, professional bodies and university faculties.
The majority of competencies and skills needed relates to the engineering field.
I thank you!