Tuesday January 16, 2024

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] welcomes the announcement by the Minister of Higher Education and Training on the additional funding of R3.8 billion for the so-called ‘missing middle’ students.

Whilst we welcome the additional funding of R3.8 billion, we call on the Minister to provide an extensive account and full transparency as to the conditions of these loans. In this regard, we seek clarity regarding the terms and conditions pertaining to the repayment of the loans, the rate of interest if any, etc. We therefore call on the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) to undertake meaningful consultations on the revised loan scheme with a broader array of stakeholders, including the students and worker formations in the sector.

As NEHAWU, we acknowledge that government has made progressive strides towards funding of higher education through various mechanisms. However, much more work needs to be done to address the challenges confronting funding of the post-school education and training.

In announcing the additional funding for the ‘missing middle students’, the Minister indicated that this process forms part of the first phase of implementing the comprehensive funding model. As NEHAWU, we must state upfront that we condemn the non-consultative approach of Minister Nzimande in the implementation of the Comprehensive Student Funding Mode.

The Minister moved with haste to announce the implementation of phase one of a funding model, a funding model that is by no means comprehensive and has neglected inputs developed through formal submissions by critical stakeholders. As NEHAWU, we have actually made a submission to the DHET early last year regarding the proposals of the Ministerial Task-Team (MTT). The minister’s announcement was very vague in relation to the actual content of the comprehensive funding model, for example as to how this intervention on the missing middle students is articulated with the funding of the post-graduate students.

The MTT, being responsible for the development of the comprehensive funding model chose to primarily benchmark developed states from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) such as Denmark, France, and Germany etc. The MTT could have included a broader variety of states to benchmark higher education funding models. In particular, states that are located within the periphery of international markets, states that are developing but constrained by colonial manifestations in their respective economies, states in Africa, Latin America and Asia by example.

In the context of the MTT’s analysis, the missing middle notion is based on household income. While the MTT admits that a deeper criteria ought to be explored, in addition to the standard income thresholds, classifying a strata within a strata based on income is cosmetic in consideration of the student’s social conditions. This brings to question the validity of the missing middle in the context of claims the MTT makes. We have consistently insisted on altering the criteria for funding which must also include a comprehension of students’ socio-economic circumstances as a basis for qualification and not be solely reliant on household income indicators. This is an important source of analysis in determining the socio-economic conditions of students from working class and poor backgrounds, and diminishes the overemphasis of the ‘missing middle’.

Lastly, we reiterate the need to ensure that full transparency in relation to the comprehensive funding model is provided to stakeholders in the post-school education and training sector.


Issued by NEHAWU Secretariat

Zola Saphetha (General Secretary) at 082 558 5968; December Mavuso (Deputy General Secretary) at 082 558 5969; Lwazi Nkolonzi (NEHAWU National Spokesperson) at 081 558 2335 or email: