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Africa needs graduates too

CLARE Short's statement: "The real question is whether governments are spending their education budget on university places for children of the elite" (TES, April 12) runs the risk of over-simplifying the policy challenges for developing countries.

The state must continue to develop and fund higher education in developing countries. In addition to providing universal primary education, we have to ensure that further and higher education sectors receive sufficient resources to enable them to provide the intellectual capital and skills base we need.

Since its inception in 1994, the South African national student loan fund has provided loans and grants to 263,740 poor black students. It is currently capitalised at 687 million Rands (pound;47m). So much for educating children of the "elite".

Our commitment to providing universal primary education is tied to our commitment to expanding higher education as there is an inextricable link between the two. In South Africa, teachers are trained at higher education institutions; it is the universities that do the research that supports policy on basic education.

My government fully supports universal basic education. South Africa is well on track to achieving the Dakar targets.

To posit basic education against higher education, however, is a false antithesis.

Professor Kader Asmal Minister of education Cape Town, South Africa

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