My Dear Fellow South Africans
The much anticipated transition from the Zuma to Ramaphosa era has come, but unfortunately, the excitement was short-lived when the focus shifted to land expropriation without compensation. We are always in transition and it is a balancing act – the promise of a ‘new dawn’ that excites us versus that moment we fear when the s@%^ will hit the fan. All in all, we want hope in a common future and care about the state of the country for our children’s sake. Yes, we should focus on correcting the injustices of the past and resolve our democratic state laid bare for its neglect, incompetence and corruption, but for some reason, we are always symptom-focused and in crisis management mode.
The masses get excited about free tertiary education for eligible South Africans and the prospect of owning a piece of land. That is great, but NOT the solution to resolve one of the most burning issues in our country – youth unemployment. It is estimated that on average youth unemployment sits at 52%, while I know for a fact that is some provinces this is as high as 78%. Couple this with the fact that in South Africa 47% of our population is in the 15 years-or-younger age band and you should see the warning lights. Pack away your fans.
Yes, it was great when President Ramaphosa acknowledged (youth) unemployment in his State of the Nation Address and committed to a Jobs Summit to align the efforts of every sector and every stakeholder behind the imperative of job creation. A full blown ‘Economic Codesa’ might also be on the cards to deal with unemployment, poverty and inequality, our stubborn triple challenge.
However, we should start this discussion by highlighting post-apartheid South Africa’s greatest failure – our education system and our inability to prepare the next generation for a different kind of economic reality. We have distorted reality with our annual ‘hoo-ha’ around the matric pass rate while ignoring the school drop-out rate and the fact that less than 40 out of every 100 grade 1s pass matric and more alarming, that almost 50% of Grade 10s never get to matric. These numbers should put free tertiary education into a new perspective. Free tertiary education for who? The few that actually qualify for tertiary education? Our drive to empower, at the expense of education, is going to haunt us. It is a tragic crisis.
Unemployment can only be resolved if we go back to basics – the quality of our school curriculum, excellence in teaching, bringing back artisanship’s, promoting entrepreneurship as an attractive career option and equipping children to become job creators instead of job seekers. No one can argue against the need to ensure we have an education system that equips our youth with the skills required to learn, adapt and thrive in today’s rapidly changing world. Looking for our Rainbow Nations pot of gold? Look no further than primary and secondary education.
Be the change you want to see in the world.
Founder & CEO – Young Entrepreneurs