Newspaper clipping – The Star –12 May 2009

Nzimande, Motshekga going back to basics

The contentious outcomes-based education policy could be reviewed, government student loans could be turned into a full bursary scheme and the autonomy of universities could be under threat if they resist transformation.

These are the views of newly appointed ministers, Blade Nzimande, for higher education and training and Angie Motshekga, for basic education. The two were sworn in at the Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria on Monday, together with the rest of the national executive appointed by President Jacob Zuma on Sunday.

Motshekga told The Star she was unhappy with the current implementation of OBE, a curriculum policy introduced by the ANC government when it came to power in 1994 to rid the country of Christian National Education. "I have been critical of OBE, in the way it has been implemented and supported by the teachers and the department," she said. "We need to focus on primary education and some of the things are basic. What I'd like to do is to ensure that there is common understanding. We need to ensure that (we) have the resources to support the (OBE) curriculum. But the basics were not being done, so there might be a review to strengthen the system."

Motshekga, president of the ANC Women's League, said her other priority was to improve teaching. "We need to do the basics first. We need to ensure there is competency in everything we do. We need to support our teachers across the national level to have a common national programme. The SA Democratic Teachers Union has already called to have a meeting. We all need to agree on the implementation of how we conduct our work," she said.

On higher education, Nzimande - an academic by training and general secretary of the SA Communist Party - was tough on access to tertiary education, lack of funding and resistance to transformation. "It's a debate I would like to see opened because academic freedom in untransformed institutions is enjoyed by those who access these institutions."

Asked about financial exclusion - where students are refused admission because of lack of funds - Nzimande said he wanted a review of the National Students Financial Aid Scheme, which gives bursary loans to needy but academically able students. "Either we establish a new scheme or we expand NSFAS to become a bursary and not just a loan scheme for (students enrolled for) first degrees."

Students are expected to repay the loan, with interest kicking in once they graduate, creating debts. Some students are blacklisted before they get employment.

Nzimande warned that this should stop. "Another thing that I am passionate about, given where I come from, is the number of unemployed graduates who are still blacklisted. "Many employers, even though it's not written in the law, do not employ them (because they are blacklisted). They are caught in a bind - they can't get jobs and they can't pay off their education debts to remove themselves so they can become employable."