Addressing access to and the quality of education in South Africa is one of the key pillars of the DA's plan for growth and jobs launched on Saturday. As a part of this jobs campaign I am therefore pleased to announce the launch of a nationwide National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) pressure campaign that will be rolled out across every tertiary institution in South Africa.
The campaign will lobby the Minister of Higher Education to consider a DA Youth proposal that would see a radical departure being made from the concept of cash-only repayment for NSFAS loans. Rather, the DA Youth proposes a model whereby willing graduates can repay their loans through service to the state in a field related to the area of study on a year-for-year basis. Thus a civil engineer would, for example, be able to pay off most of his or her study fees over three years by working for the state for a period of three years after completing their National Diploma.
Not only would this provide relief to cash-strapped new entrants to the labour market, who often become trapped in the debt cycle once completing their studies, but will also provide a means for graduates to obtain vital on the job experience.
With 600 000 graduates currently unemployed, supporting students through innovative proposals such as this is essential if we are to address the scourge of unemployment in South Africa.
The business sector has repeatedly highlighted the fact that new graduates often lack the practical skills and experience necessary to make them employable. This proposed initiative would therefore act to bridge this skills gap by giving graduates an opportunity to obtain real, on the job experience through service to the state. While these graduates obtain this experience, the ailing, under-skilled public sector in turn benefits from a massive influx of new talent and skills.
The campaign to lobby support be will be run across all campuses in South Africa and will consist of the following elements:
1. A petition that can be signed at http://www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/nsfasloans.
2. A letter to the Minister of Higher Education urging him to adopt the proposal.
3. A social media campaign to highlight to issue.
4. A series of posters and leaflets to be erected on every campus in South Africa.
5. A series of public meetings with students at campuses across South Africa to build
support for the proposal.
This initiative has numerous benefits to students, the state and the unemployment rate, and we will therefore be actively lobbying the Higher Education Minister in the coming weeks to support it.