The government has raided the National Skills Fund (NSF) to meet the promise of a no-fee increase for students at tertiary institutions – jeopardising the fund’s future investment income and forcing it to axe projects aimed at developing much-needed artisans.
Details of the trade-off the government has been forced to make by the student protests that began in 2015 are laid bare in the NSF’s 2017/2018 annual report‚ which was tabled in parliament on Monday.
It shows the NSF was forced to finance 50% of the no-fee increase for 2016 and the entire no-fee increase for 2017 from its accumulated surpluses‚ which ran to R6.56-billion‚ or 59% of its accumulated surplus.
Since this money had already been earmarked for future projects‚ it has been forced to put these initiatives on ice. These include R1.5-billion for artisan development‚ and R1.5-billion more intended for improving the post-school education and training system‚ including artisan training at Technical and Vocational Education Training colleges.
The cuts to the artisan development programmes are a blow to the National Development Plan’s (NDP’s) goal of producing 30‚000 artisans a year by 2030.
An artisan shortage has forced companies to import welders and carpenters.