Job prospects will wipe away matric smiles‚ say education activists

An unemployed young South African pleads for money or food at a Johannesburg street corner.

An unemployed young South African pleads for money or food at a Johannesburg street corner. 

With the matric results out on Thursday‚ education activists sounded a sobering warning: “Joblessness lurks as an increasingly likely post-school reality.”

In an analysis of prospects for the Class of 2017‚ Equal Education said “even the educationally privileged” would struggle to find work.

It blamed low economic growth and said it knew where to place the blame. “Conditions for economic growth cannot be created under a government that is led by Jacob Zuma and his Gupta associates.

“A government that works tirelessly in service of its poor must be led by men and women of conscience.”

The NGO cited key statistics that make grim reading for matriculants:

– Unemployment for 15 to 34-year-olds is 38.6%; and

– 30% of unemployed 15 to 24-year-olds are not in employment‚ education or training.

Equal Education said the Vision 2030 goal espoused in the National Development Plan — of 6% unemployment by the end of the next decade‚ compared with the current rate of 27.7% — lay in “tatters”.

But it said academic research had described positive short-term steps that could be taken:

– Employers should lower their criteria when advertising vacancies;

– A national transport subsidy would make it easier for young people to accessjob opportunities;

– Significant investment was needed in youth employability programmes.

In the longer term‚ improving the quality of education should be the top priority. “It is imperative that poor-quality teaching and learning‚ and poor throughput rates in basic education and in TVET colleges‚ be urgently addressed.”

Equal Education was critical of sector education and training authorities (Setas)‚ saying that the latest statistics showed only 1.6% of unemployed people attended their programmes.

It said Setas should work more closely with education and training providers‚ as well as employers.

The NGO backed a Human Sciences Research Council report calling for an urgent programme to improve the quality of teaching and learning materials at community colleges.

“The unemployment crisis haunts many families in this country‚” it said. “Children attend dysfunctional schools in the hope that education will liberate them.

“The current government under Zuma is an unimaginative‚ unresponsive and unaccountable one that fails to create opportunities for our youth.

“South Africa’s unemployment crisis can only be solved by a corruption-free government that exercises strong fiscal discipline.

“Until a government that prioritises its most vulnerable emerges in this country‚ we will continue to witness an army of unemployed youth toiling township and rural streets with little hope of a life that is fulfilling.”

The matric results are due to be released at 6pm by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. More than 789,289 pupils wrote the exams.