8 March 2012 - Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe says government is looking at ways to boost tertiary education in the country. Among the measures being looked at is a centralised admission to the countries' universities.
"One of the anticipated benefits of such a service will be the standardisation of one application fee for all universities. This will assist poor students in extending their opportunities and choice," Motlanthe told Parliament's National Council of Provinces on Thursday.
Answering questions on the high university fees, he said, there was a Ministerial Committee tasked with looking into the matter of the student fee increases, and the desirability of capping such increases.
"Once this committee has completed its work, it will make recommendations to the minister, on whether a national policy to regulate university fees should be put in place."
Over the years tertiary fees have been increasing as universities seek to balance their budgets. In many cases, parents simply can't afford to pay the travelling and accommodation costs, on top of the tuition fees, for their children to further their education.
But, to alleviate the plight of poor students, government provides funding to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme to enable poor and academically deserving students to attend universities.
The total number of impoverished, but academically deserving students assisted was almost 150 000 in this financial year. It is expected that this will increase by 5% annually.
Turning to the soaring electricity prices, Motlanthe reiterating that government was looking at introducing a number of mechanisms that will ensure that tariffs do not escalate in a manner that has an adverse impact on economic growth and job creation.
There have been concerns from all sectors, particularly the middle class, that an increase would put them in a tight spot, especially when coupled with the high food and petrol prices.
Motlanthe told the NCOP that an interdepartmental team had been established to consider the best approach for determining the next round of electricity tariff increases for Eskom, due to take effect from April 2013.
The process, he added, would involve developing a model that seeks to balance the socio-economic impact of increasing electricity prices, the country's competitiveness, Eskom's financial viability and the necessary policy considerations for implementing the Integrated Resource Plan.
"The future price path will take into cognisance the competitiveness of the South African economy based on economically sustainable electricity tariffs that balance macroeconomic and socio-political impacts. It is important that the price path provides the regulatory certainty that is crucial for investment in the power sector," explained Motlanthe.
He added that once the price path had been outlined, there would be certainty for the next 20 years regarding future electricity tariffs, as opposed to the current practice where tariffs are determined every 3 years.
Replying to a question on government's Poverty Reduction Projects and Programmes and discrepancies in the database the Department of Performance, Monitoring, and Evaluation was monitoring these in addition to quarterly reports by responsible ministers to the President Jacob Zuma and Cabinet.
"From time to time, the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation publishes reports which indicate the degree of progress made. These are significant improvements to our monitoring and evaluation systems," said Motlanthe, adding that the ministers have committed themselves to clear targets over the five year term of this government.