By Chris Bathembu
Pretoria – President Jacob Zuma has announced the names of the two new universities government will be building in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape.
The new university in the Northern Cape will be named Sol Plaatje University and the one in Mpumalanga will be called the University of Mpumalanga.
The announcement was made at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Thursday.
Sol Plaatje was a famous writer, a South African intellectual, journalist, linguist, politician and translator. He was born just outside Boshof in the then Orange Free State.
Historically, Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape have no institution of higher learning and this is believed to have disadvantaged learners from these areas and has caused a further strain in the country’s tertiary institutions.
In the last decade, South Africa has witnessed growth of over 50% in the number of enrolments. Numbers moved from 603 000 students enrolled in 2001 to 935 000 in 2012.
“The building of new institutions is designed to respond to this hunger for education and give our youth an opportunity to earn the skills that would enable them to lead this country in future,” Zuma told reporters.
Higher education sector expected to grow
Zuma noted that the National Development Plan, a national policy blueprint, envisages an increase in higher education enrolments from 17.9% in 2012 to 25% by 2030.
“There is also a huge increase in the enrolment of our children from pre-school to primary and high school right up to tertiary level. We are establishing these institutions because we want every province in the country to provide institutions of higher learning.”
In 2010, the Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande appointed two task teams to investigate the feasibility and possible models for the establishment of universities in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape respectively.
The task teams engaged stakeholders in the provinces, and, taking into account provincial and national needs, made recommendations on the type and size of the two new institutions, including information on possible sites for the institutions.
This year, the Finance Minister allocated a budget of over R2 billion for the establishment of the universities.
Private sector funding
But Nzimande said on Thursday government was in talks with private sector companies, particularly those that do business in the two provinces, to come on board with additional funding.
“In fact, a few of them have come forward and said they are willing to make some kind of contribution. We ourselves have been very conscious of the fact that it’s very important that these companies come on board.”
Nzimande also said there was a plan to recruit academics from outside the country, particularly for those skills that may not be present in South Africa.
He confirmed the first intake of students will be in 2014 but will be operating from old buildings, with the new university buildings expected to be opened in 2015.
“What this means is that these universities are legal entities, they have names as required by law and have interim councils.”
Zuma in his speech said each university was expected to grow its institutional, academic and infrastructure capacity in a planned and gradual manner.
The University of Mpumalanga will start as a multi campus institution with two campuses, one in Nelspruit and one in Siyabuswa.
Sol Plaatje University will be established initially on the main campus, but it was envisaged that it may expand further as a multi-campus university in the future.
“With these targets in mind, the planned start in 2014 will accommodate a modest initial intake of 150 students at Sol Plaatje and 140 in Mpumalanga,” said Zuma.
Authorities are adamant that South Africa’s first new institutions of higher learning since 1994 will be “symbols of our new order, democracy, inclusiveness, growth and opportunity”.
“These institutions must become an enduring source of pride, both nationally and provincially. They must be able to attract the best academics in South Africa, the continent and the world,” reads a White Paper published by the Department of Higher Education and Training.
Meanwhile, Zuma said investment in FET college bursaries in the country has increased from R318 million in 2010 to R1.9 billion in 2013. The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) grew to assist 1.4 million students. Funding for NSFAS student loans at universities has increased from R2.2 billion in 2010 to R3.6 billion in 2013, helping more than 200 000 students. – SAnews.gov.za