Ubuntu ethics and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme

Manuel, Rustum (2019-04)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2019.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: In this thesis, I develop an Ubuntu-inspired critique of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). In my analysis, I show that NSFAS has not achieved its goal of ensuring equal access to higher education across income groups in South Africa. Furthermore, NSFAS's inability to meet societal expectations has contributed to the volatile environment at tertiary institutions across South Africa as well as political disenchantment more generally. The wave of student protests, which erupted across various higher education institutions between 2015 and 2017, are indicative of the social unrest which NSFAS has exacerbated as a result of its inability to promote the values of social harmony and solidarity. This thesis is split into four chapters. In the first chapter, I trace the historical development of the South African Higher Education and Training (HET) sector. I use a three-pronged approach in this analysis: I investigate the policy and actions of the South African government, both prior to and after the 1994 democratic elections, as well as the HET statutory base employed. I argue that such an overview shows a series of imperfect responses to the difficult situation that exists in the HET sector. More specifically, these difficulties include a slow rate of transformation, growing exclusivity and increased racism. In the second chapter, I elaborate on the theoretical basis of this thesis. The chapter aims to familiarise the reader with the theoretical points of departure that will underpin my critique of NSFAS. Specifically, I explore the uniquely African ethical theory known as Ubuntu and examine what it implies for how firms, and entities which operate in a similar manner to firms (such as NSFAS), ought to approach their business activity. I will argue that, in line with Ubuntu, these entities have a duty to promote social harmony and solidarity. In the third chapter, I assess whether NSFAS’s current approach is appropriate to fulfil its mandated purpose. Specifically, the provision of financial assistance (loans or bursaries) to eligible students at public higher education institutions and colleges. First, I will analyse whether NSFAS's mandated purpose is morally justified, and, second, I will assess the moral basis of NSFAS's operational model. While the former analysis returns a positive result, NSFAS's operational model is a serious cause for concern. In the fourth chapter, I provide some concluding remarks. Specifically, I argue that NSFAS is in a position to promote harmony and solidarity by making tertiary education accessible to eligible students, namely students whose families cannot afford the costs associated with tertiary studies. This financial aid has the potential to facilitate equal access to opportunity in education for those students directly assisted by the scheme and also indirectly affects the lives of student’s families. Despite this position, NSFAS has not been able to meet its potential and has made the situation of a vulnerable group worse. Finally, I make some tentative suggestions as to how NSFAS's mandate could be better achieved.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: In hierdie tesis ontwikkel ek 'n Ubuntu-gebasseerde evaluasie van die Nasionale Studente Finansiële Hulp Skema. In my analise het ek gevind dat, in plaas daarvan dat NSFAS mense bymerkaarbring deur die inkomstegaping tussen groepe te verbeter en 'n proses te fasiliteer wat die toegang tot geleenthede gelykmaak, NSFAS hulle meer verwydered as ooit gelaat het. NSFAS se onvermoë om die samelewing se verwagtinge te bevredig het bygedra tot 'n plofbare situasie by hoër opvoedkundige instellings regoor Suid-Afrika en het ook die algehele vlak van politiese ontnugtering, insake die Suid-Afrikaanse regering se vermoë om die landsburgers te dien, vererger. In lig hiervan argumenteer ek dat NSFAS se foute gesien kan word as een van die primêre drywers van breër sosio-ekonomiese probleme binne die sektor van hoër onderwys. Die studenteproteste tussen 2015 en 2017 maak dit duidelik hoeveel sosiale onrus en hoeveel oortredings insake sosiale harmonie en solidarieteit NSFAS veroorsaak het. Die tesis bestaan uit vier hoofstukke. In die eerste hoofstuk verduidelik ek die historiese ontwikkeling van die Suid-Afrikaanse sektor vir hoër onderwys. In my analise gebruik ek 'n drieledige benadering en kyk na die amptelike beleid, die optrede van die regerende party sowel as die relevante regsbasis aan beide kante van die demokratiese verkeisings in 1994. In hierdie oorsig word dit duidelik dat ons histories te doen het met 'n gebrekkige respons tot 'n moeilike probleem. In die tweede hoofstuk verduidelik ek die teoretiese basis van die tesis. Die hoofstuk bestaan uit drie afdelings. Elk van hierdie afdelings het ten doel om die leser meer vertroud te maak met die teoretiese vetrekpunt gebruik in die beoordeling en bespreking van NSFAS. Ek ondersoek Ubuntu as 'n unieke Afrika-etiek en ondersoek wat dit impliseer insake hoe firmas hulle besigheid behoort te bedryf. In die derde hoofstuk kyk ek of NSFAS in sy huidige (2018) vorm wel in staat is om sy mandaat te vervul. Meer spesifiek, kyk ek na (a) of NSFAS se mandaat moreel regverdigbaar is, en, (b) die detail insake NSFAS se operasionele model. Ek argumenteer dat, alhoewel die eerste vraag positief beantwoord moet word, daar ernstige probleme is met NSFAS se operasionele model. In die vierde hoofstuk bied ek my konklusies aan. Ek argumenteer dat NSFAS in 'n posisie is om harmonie en solidariteit te bevorder, nie net deur die ekonomiese bevordering van die belange van studente nie, maar ook die belange van hul families en die ekonomie as geheel. Instede hiervan het NSFAS die omstandighede van reeds kwesbare groepe vererger. Ek argumenteer verder dat NSFAS se foute kan gesien word as 'n primêre drywer van wyer sosio-ekonomiese probleme binne die tersiêre onderwys-sektor.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/106047
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