Not enough support for struggling students, says Pali Lehohla

Statistician-General Pali Lehohla has highlighted the significant disparities in higher education success rates between black and white people in South Africa.

Statistician General Pali Lehohla. Picture: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG - Statistician-General Pali Lehohla has highlighted the significant disparities in higher education success rates between black and white people in South Africa, saying there simply isn't enough support for struggling students.

Lehohla is making his submission at the Higher Education Fees Commission of Inquiry.

President Jacob Zuma established the commission last year to investigate the feasibility of fee-free higher education.

Commission chair Judge Jonathan Heher is expected to submit a report to the president towards the middle of this year.

Lehohla says that while the net numbers of black people completing higher education studies has increased, the proportion is declining.

He compared statistics from the 90s to figures from last year.

“For every black person, there were 1.2 white people who were succeeding. For every black person here, in terms of performance, there were six whites to date. This is where the problem is, that blacks do not succeed when they’re at university.”

BREAKING THE CYCLE OF POVERTY

Lehohla also says that South Africa’s historical inequality and cycle of poverty is a direct contributing factor to poor university performance among black people.

He says the challenge now is to break the cycle of poverty.

“How adults are going to enter adult life when they haven’t managed to secure the necessary resources to enjoy adult life. That means that there’s a transfer cost to their children who, unfortunately, also not working.”

The Statistician-General says the proportion of failing students among black people is increasing.

“The number that manages to succeed is a regressing number all the time, although the absolute numbers are higher. It means, as a proportion for subsequent years, it’s an increasingly dropping number.”

Lehohla has suggested full support for students, which includes accommodation, meals and transport.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter and Masechaba Sefularo)