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Economist questions affordability of Zuma's tertiary education funding plan

President Jacob Zuma made the announcement shortly before the African National Congress (ANC)'s national elective conference got underway in Gauteng last month.

FILE: Jacob Zuma during the nominations process at the ANC's national conference on 17 December 2017. Picture: Sethembiso Zulu/EWN

CAPE TOWN - As the new academic year draws closer, economists have questioned how President Jacob Zuma will fulfil his promise of subsidizing free tertiary education to students from poor and working class families.

Zuma made the announcement shortly before the African National Congress (ANC)'s national elective conference got underway in Gauteng last month.

The announcement was made despite the recommendations of the Heher Commission which had been set up to probe whether free tertiary education would be possible.

ETM Analytics economist George Glynos says that government must first focus on primary and secondary education.

He has questioned President Zuma’s announcement on free tertiary education and where the money will come from.

"He went against his own commission. So, his own commission came out and said it was unaffordable. I’ve looked at the fiscal numbers and I’d like to see what they're going to trim elsewhere to make this affordable."

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema has also declared 2018 the year of free education.

In his new year’s message, Malema urged those wanting to study to arrive at universities when they reopen in about six weeks time.

The Presidency and the Higher Education department have not yet responded on the issue.

In his new year's statement released on Sunday, President Zuma called for renewed efforts to boost inclusive economic growth and improve the lives of poor and working class South Africans.

He also said that the intervention of free higher education must be the beginning of a skills revolution in the country and says that this was already started in what government is doing for the poor in terms of basic education.

"We will also intensify investment in education in 2018. We have already over the years expanded access to free education for children from poor households."

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