South Africa’s budgetary policy is aimed at tackling the triple challenge of unemployment, poverty and inequality. Many view education as one of the weapons in the country's arsenal to address this triple challenge.
Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) revealed that of the 7.9 million unemployed persons in the first quarter of 2022, as many as 50.1% had education levels below matric, followed by those with matric at 40%. Only 2.8% of unemployed persons were graduates, while 6.7% had other tertiary qualifications as their highest level of education.
Chairperson of the Unemployed Graduates of South Africa organisation, Ayanda Khumalo says that while more work must be done around curriculum development in ensuring that workers are employable, the historical legacy of resource distribution plays a role in the ability of less fortunate individuals to enter university.
Khumalo said, “We still live in an unequal society because, even with the resources of learning, in as much as we compete for one thing [placement in university], we are not provided equally with the resources.”
Universities South Africa CEO, Prof. Ahmed Bawa believes that universities cannot be the only solution to the unemployment crisis in South Africa. He however defended the courses being offered at institutions of higher learning around the country.
He explained that before an institution can offer a course, it must be accredited. He adds that industry experts play a role in the accreditation process which requires courses to teach students competencies needed in the workplace.
University of Pretoria Dean of Teaching and Learning, Prof. Salome Human-Vogel says that students are looking to university as the main option but acknowledges the role the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) play in equipping young people with skills.
Human-Vogal believes that the decision by the education department to investigate issuing a General Education Certificate (GEC) once young people complete Grade 9 is a good move.
This project will allow learners to obtain a certificate in Grade 9 and further their education elsewhere.
Once learners obtain a GEC certificate, they will choose an education path. The three streams that will be available to learners are academic, vocational and occupational streams.
The academic stream will see learners complete Grade 12 at traditional public schools while the vocational stream would see learners obtain a qualification similar to the Grade 12 certificate, but focusing more on vocational courses and subjects. The makeup of the occupational stream will be elaborated upon once the education department launches the GEC certificate.