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  • NSFAS Funding Applications Go Online

    NSFAS to accept online applications from returning and prospective students at universities for the 2017 academic year, says Mamabolo

    The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is from now on taking online applications from returning and prospective students at universities for the 2017 academic year.
    NSFAS spokesperson, Kagiso Mamabolo, says the scheme is introducing the new student-centric model to all universities next year.
    With this model, Mamabolo says students would not be required to apply annually - once the students had been offered funding after their first application, “the student will be funded till the end of their studies.”
    To read the article titled, “NSFAS funding applications go online,” click here.

    The Citizen

  • ‘Pockets of Disasters’ and Essential Resources for Schools

    The Social Profile of Youth, 2009 - 2014 Report[2] released by Statistics South Africa paints a rather bleak picture for black and coloured youth. The report indicates that there has been a decline in bachelor degree completion rates among black African and coloured students since the mid-1990s, with less than four percent graduating from university.  Education levels are linked to jobs. It is thus twice as hard for black African and coloured graduates to secure a job over their white peers according to the Report.

    This may be attributed to many things. But with the Statistician-General concluding “that it is in education that the irretrievably lost window of opportunity for a demographic dividend can be mitigated for future generations” [3] it is important to interrogate, and ask difficult questions about the policy positions taken to deliver quality education. What policy steps should be taken to progressively give black and coloured youth a chance to enjoy the fruits of education in 12 years’ time?  

    The aim here should be to provide “inclusive and equitable quality education for all”[4]. If we agree that equal opportunity to receive a quality education is a prerequisite for equal opportunity to participate in a democratic society, it is important to determine what is equal opportunity with respect to education. As the great jurist, Ronald Dworkin, has observed learners “have equal opportunities ... when their wealth and other resources depend on the value and costs of their choices, but not on their luck, including their genetic luck in parents and talents.”[5]  

    How do we assess educational success?

    The discourse around equal education opportunity in South Africa has been squarely focused on output (performance of standardised tests, matric results, number of pupils promoted to the next grade, how many enter university). This has meant that the government has put emphasis on the idea that everyone finishes at the same level, more in line with equality of outcome. While we can all agree that matric results are important, they may also be taken as an indicator of disparities. But they only offer a partial view of the real problem. If we use matric results as a measure of success then it is clear that while the basic education landscape looks better in terms of redress, equity and access it fares badly when it comes to quality and efficiency[6].

    In South Africa’s Education Crisis: The quality of education in South Africa 1994-2011, Nicholas Spaull, states it is commonly accepted that roughly 25 percent of pupils perform significantly better than roughly 75 percent.[7] Spaull further notes that the better performing group are from wealthier schools. He concludes that South Africa has two education systems, with students split by wealth, socio-economic status, geographical location, and language[8]. An alternative view would be to shift our attention from outputs to inputs - measuring deficiencies in the foundational components and therefore improving quality and efficiency for all. 
    Outputs refer to achievements and are often described in economic terms, like the higher incomes associated with each additional year at school. Inputs are described in technical terms, such as available school infrastructure, the number of textbooks available and pupil-teacher ratios.[9]  

    Delivering Essential Resources

    The recent Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) judgement in Minister of Basic Education and Others v Basic Education for All focused on the inputs which are the fundamental education resources necessary, but not necessarily sufficient, for equal opportunity[10]. The judgement outlined what must be provided in an education system truly committed to and designed for improving equal opportunity for all. 

    The case dealt with the Department of Basic Education’s failure to provide learners at public schools in Limpopo with textbooks following the roll-out of a new curriculum in 2012. By mid-year 2012, the department had not ensured that each learner had a textbook for each subject. This persisted throughout 2013 and 2014, even though the High Court had, earlier, ordered that this be rectified according to a timeline. The SCA found that the failure to deliver textbooks amounted to an unfair discrimination against the affected learners: “Clearly, learners who do not have textbooks are adversely affected. Why should they suffer the indignity of having to borrow from neighbouring schools or copy from a blackboard which cannot, in any event, be used to write the totality of the content of the relevant part of the textbook? Why should poverty stricken schools and learners have to be put through the expense of having to photocopy from the books of other schools? Why should some children be able to work from textbooks at home and others not? These questions prove that there can be no doubt that those without textbooks are being unlawfully discriminated against.”[11] 

    Adequate education is the first step towards equal education. An adequate education is one that provides sufficient resources to ensure that all students, regardless of background, race, class and gender have an equal opportunity to realise specified goals for their grade.  Adequacy is a floor; it is the minimum level of resources needed to realise stated goals. In order to compensate for the disadvantages of poverty, the Department of Basic Education should make available additional resources for poorer schools. 

    This principle is applied in the department’s regulations relating to the minimum norms and standards for public school infrastructure. These were set in November 2013 when, for the very first time, it became law that every school have water, electricity, Internet, working toilets, safe classrooms with a set maximum number of learners per class, security, laboratories, libraries and sports facilities[12]. This was a huge milestone towards inclusive and equitable quality education.  But thousands of schools still lack the necessary infrastructure. While there are some improvements as indicated in the 2015 Department of Education’s National Education Infrastructure Management Systems Report[13], as compared to 2011[14] but slow progress and lack of accountability cannot be ignored. The 2015 Report notes the following of the 23 589 public ordinary schools:

    • 452 schools do not have a water supply while 4 773 have an unreliable water supply;
    • 913 schools do not have electricity while 2854 schools have an unreliable electricity supply;
    • 128 schools are without ablution facilities while 10 419 schools are still using pit latrine toilets;
    • 1 547 schools do not have fencing at all while 58 schools have unreliable fencing;
    • 9 966 schools do not have sports facilities;
    • 181 schools are without communication facilities;
    • 18 150 schools are without libraries while only 3 287 of those with libraries have stocked libraries;
    • 15 984 schools are without computer centres; and
    • 20 312 schools do not have laboratory facilities. 

    Source: Department of Basic Education (NEIMS Report)

    What then are the Basics? 

    The Constitutional Court in Mpumalanga Department of Education and Another v Hoërskool Ermelo and Another held that: 
    the cardinal fault line of our past oppression ran along race, class and gender. It authorised a hierarchy of privilege and disadvantage. Unequal access to opportunity prevailed in every domain. Access to private or public education was no exception…. It is so that white public schools were hugely better resourced than black schools. They were lavishly treated by the apartheid government. It is also true that they served and were shored up by relatively affluent white communities.

    On the other hand, formerly black public schools have been, and by and large remain, scantily resourced. They were deliberately funded stingily by the apartheid government. Also, they served in the main and were supported by relatively deprived black communities. That is why perhaps the most abiding and debilitating legacy of our past is an unequal distribution of skills and competencies acquired through education. In an unconcealed design, the Constitution ardently demands that this social unevenness be addressed by a radical transformation of society as a whole and of public education in particular.[15]  

    How, then, should the Department of Basic Education realise the promises and hopes embodied in the Constitution? This question is both vast and perhaps even politically loaded. But we can all agree on what the basics which should be immediately addressed are. 

    They are: 

    • Adequate numbers of qualified teachers, principals, and other personnel in every school, every day; 
    • Adequate and accessible infrastructure for all students;
    • Adequate learning and teaching support material; and
    • Appropriate class sizes.


    This is not to argue that other resources are not important. But, the arguments above have been identified by the Courts as being essential to delivering a quality education. The department has carefully crafted policies that are designed to guarantee that these essential resources are available to all students, especially those most vulnerable. The textbook case was an attempt to hold the State to a standard that it has set for itself. These resources are needed; yet the department fails to make them uniformly available. 

    The Statistician General has highlighted the crisis we currently face in our public education. Is an entire generation of young people being failed? 

    • Anele Mtwesi ( is a researcher at the Helen Suzman Foundation. This article first appeared on the Helen Suzman Foundation website.

    Photo Courtesy: The Guardian

    [1] (Reference ot ‘Pockets of Disasters’ in the heading)
    [5] Ronald Dworkin, Is Democracy Possible Here? (2006) 108
    [7] South Africa’s Education Crisis: The quality of education in South Africa 1994-2011, Nicholas Spaull
    [8] South Africa’s Education Crisis: The quality of education in South Africa 1994-2011, Nicholas Spaull
    [9] The Failing Standard of Basic Education in South Africa, Brenda Matshidiso Modisaotsile
    [10] Minister of Basic Education v Basic Education for All,
    [11] Minister of Basic Education v Basic Education for All,
    [15] Head of Department : Mpumalanga Department of Education and Another v Hoërskool Ermelo and Another,

  • ​Outcry Over Ban of LGBT Groups From AIDS Summit

    Human rights advocates from major Western nations and organisations protest against a United Nations decision to bar 22 LGBT affiliated groups from taking part in a high-level AIDS conference

    Human rights advocates from major Western nations and organisations are protesting against a United Nations decision to bar 22 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) affiliated groups from taking part in a high-level United Nations AIDS conference next month.
    Because the 193-member U.N. General Assembly operates by consensus, the countries calling for the ban - Russia, Tanzania and 52 countries in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation – are not required to give an explanation.
    However, many see the move as blatant discrimination against groups that represent some of the communities most strongly affected by HIV/AIDS.
    To read the article titled, “Outcry over ban of LGBT groups from global AIDS conference,” click here.

    Human Osphere

  • Address by His Excellency, President Jacob Zuma, on the occasion of Africa Day Gala Dinner, Cape Town

    Honourable Deputy President,
    Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly,
    Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
    Honourable Members of Parliament,
    The Dean of the Diplomatic Corps,
    All Excellencies Ambassadors and High Commissioners,
    Captains of industry,
    Fellow Africans and friends,
    We are delighted to share this 2016 celebration of Africa Day with all of you.
    Today marks 53 years since the establishment of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).
    The OAU was transformed into our present day African Union (AU) in 2002 in Durban.
    We are celebrating the day under the theme ‘Building a Better Africa and a Better World’, which is the goal of our government and our nation, to contribute in whatever small way we can, to improving our continent and to building a better world.
    The leaders of our continent came together in 1963 because they saw the need for Africans to unite and fight for their freedom, independence, dignity, development and prosperity together.
    The African leaders realised that without unity, Africa would not move far in achieving her goals.
    On Africa Day we celebrate the triumph of the African peoples against slavery, colonialism, apartheid and other political ills and forms of subjugation. We are also celebrating the progress we are making in building a better Africa working together within the ambit of the African Union.
    On Africa Day, we pay homage to the great African men and women who fought tirelessly to ensure that Africa is freed from bondage, and to ensure the return of African dignity.
    These were selfless leaders who wanted to see only the best for the African continent, and wanted to see freedom reign in every corner of Africa.
    Kwame Nkrumah proclaimed on the day that Ghana gained independence: “Our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of Africa.” It is this selflessness that we must remember and cherish always in their memory.
    Africa has partners in all the regions of the world – Asia, North America, South America, the middle East, New Zealand and Australia and indeed all over. Together with our partners in these regions, we seek to build a better, and more just world, and to build a prosperous Africa, free of poverty, unemployment, disease and underdevelopment.
    We want an Africa with modern infrastructure, where one can fly from one country to another within the continent, without having to go via Europe.
    We want an Africa where people are able to drive or ride by rail from one country to another with greater ease.
    It is for this reason that we are working, under the auspices of the African Union, to build infrastructure that will boost economic development in our continent.
    We are also working to achieve regional integration and to promote trade among ourselves as Africans, as intra-trade remains very low, standing at a mere eleven percent.
    In this regard, we envisage concluding the negotiations for a Continental Free Trade Area next year.
    In doing so, we are fulfilling the wishes of our forebears. Kwame Nkrumah outlined the vision of a prosperous Africa.
    Kwame Nkrumah said at the founding of the OAU in 1963:
    “We shall accumulate machinery and establish steel works, iron foundries and factories; we shall link the various states of our continent with communications by land, sea, and air.
    “We shall cable from one place to another, phone from one place to the other and astound the world with our hydro-electric power, we shall drain marshes and swamps, clear infested areas, feed the undernourished, and rid our people of parasites and disease.”
    It is up to us now to work harder than ever, to achieve this vision that was outlined by the founding fathers of our continent.
    The African Union socio-economic blueprint, Agenda 2063 perfectly captures the vision of where we want to take Africa and to build the Africa we want.
    There is synergy between Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals that we adopted as member states of the United Nations in September last year.
    Most importantly, their sterling work has put continental self-reliance at the centre of our collective endeavours.
    Your Excellencies,
    Ladies and gentlemen,
    We cannot continue to be producers and exporters of raw materials. We need to strengthen the manufacturing capacities of our national economies through industrialisation.
    More importantly, the beneficiation of our raw materials remains of paramount importance. The mineral wealth of Africa must help eradicate poverty in the African continent. And we do have the mineral wealth in abundance.
    Kwame Nkrumah pointed out in 1963 and this remains relevant today:
    “It is said, of course, that we have no capital, no industrial skill, no communications, and no internal markets, and that we cannot even agree among ourselves how best to utilise our resources for our own social needs. Yet all stock exchanges in the world are preoccupied with Africa’s gold, diamonds, uranium, platinum, copper and iron ore.”
    Africa cannot be left behind in the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The sustainable development we seek will come about through the use of modern technology, and also through improving education in the continent.
    We must take advantage of the global digital revolution so as to create employment and better the lives of our people. The situation which we find ourselves in can be changed.
    We are a very youthful continent and investment in education and skills development will take Africa closer to the goals of sustainable development and an end to hunger, disease and deprivation.
    Furthermore, our energy needs in the continent have increased. According to the International Energy Agency, sub-Sahara Africa witnessed a 45 percent rise in energy needs since the year 2000.
    The electrification of the continent thus remains a key priority, and one of the most important infrastructure goals.
    Remarkable advances have already been made in solar and wind energy, among others. These efforts will not only enable us to satisfy our energy needs in the foreseeable future but will also assist us to reduce carbon emissions. 
    We can achieve all these goals. We need to draw inspiration from the word of our iconic leader nelson Mandela who said:
    “It always seems impossible until it's done.”
    Your excellencies,
    We can confidently say that Africa led the way with practical actions towards the realisation of the December 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, long before the said agreement was signed in April 2016.
    We are proud of the contribution of the COP17 Climate Change conference in Durban, as the Durban Platform of Action led the way towards the signing of the agreement in Paris. This was significant progress by the African continent.
    We also need to diversify our economies in order to be globally competitive.
    I do believe that unlocking the full potential of Africa’s ocean economy is overdue. South Africa is already investing in the ocean economy in a big way. We have already unlocked R17 billion worth of investments in the ports and other aspects of the oceans economy.
    Agenda 2063 is very clear about the importance of our ocean economies and states that Africa’s Blue economy, which is three times the size of its landmass, shall be a major contributor to continental transformation and growth.
    Ladies and gentlemen,
    Pockets of conflicts in the continent have potential to limit the realisation of our socio-economic development goals. It is for this reason that the AU has prioritised peace and security.
    We have taken a resolution that the guns must be silenced in the continent by 2020. We want an Africa that is at peace with itself. An Africa where women and children live without fear of attacks.
    An Africa where there are no displaced people and refugees. The continent is doing something to end the conflicts. What has been of concern is the ability of the continent to respond with speed when conflict breaks out in order to protect lives.
    The African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises which was established in November 2013 to fulfil this goal will remain in place.
    This mechanism will be replaced by the African Standby Force at a time to be decided by the continent’s leadership.
    Your Excellencies,
    While we work hard to address challenges faced by the continent, we cannot turn a blind eye to challenges faced by humanity in other parts of the world.
    We are thus troubled by the tragic migration crisis in Europe which is being exploited by criminal elements to commit various crimes.
    The European Union (EU) Commission has recently released a report which links increased human trafficking to the current migration challenges in the region.
    The seriousness of this matter requires our urgent collective action.
    I am certain that we all have realised that there is a need to resolve the challenges in countries where migrants come from. We will be shortsighted to believe that migration crisis can only be managed, whereas it can actually be prevented.
    Ladies and gentlemen,
    As Africans we have the responsibility to move Africa closer to the goal of prosperity. We are making steady progress towards that goal, with the support of development partners from all over the world.
    Let me wish you an enjoyable evening and a most wonderful Africa Day celebration.
    I thank you!
    For more about The Presidency, refer to

  • ​NGOs Welcomes the Withdrawal of NPRC

    Zimbabwean NGOs welcome the withdrawal of the NPRC Bill from Parliament following MPs' adverse report

    Zimbabwean non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have welcomed the withdrawal of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) Bill from Parliament following MPs' adverse report.
    Both the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) and Heal Zimbabwe say the development is an opportunity for people's concerns to be factored into the proposed law.
    In a press statement, ZPP points out that, "We acknowledge the concerns raised by the Parliamentary Legal Committee (PLC) in their adverse report on the NPRC Bill; and associate ourselves with the issues raised by citizens who participated in the public hearings."
    To read the article titled, “NGOs express joy as the condemned National Peace and Reconciliation Commission Bill Withdrawn from parly,” click here

    All Africa