Creating clear education and employment pathways for South Africa’s youth

The matric results’ announcement was met with much debate about what the “real” matric pass rate is. This has now become an annual practice and, as one education practitioner highlighted, “everyone has an opinion, right or wrong, about education”. Whatever your view on this issue is, the class of 2018 will see over 400 000 young people added to our growing pool of youth without a matric certificate. Given the premium placed on the matric certificate in South Africa, this will in all likelihood translate into lack of sustainable and meaningful economic opportunities.

It is often easy to blame the Department of Basic Education (DBE) for the growing pool of young people without a matric. What we fail to realise though is that once our youth leave the gates of school, they are no longer the Department’s responsibility. They become society’s responsibility: our collective responsibility. This means it’s up to all stakeholders – including government, business and civil society – to find alternative and workable solutions to save these young people from a life of hopelessness.

The soon to be released Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report Lifelong Learning for adults in South Africa: The role of Community Education and Training notes that around 19 million adults in the country don’t have an upper secondary qualification. (This is defined by the OECD as the final stage of secondary education, or the period between grade 10 and tertiary education).

The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) reported in 2017 that 7.8 million youth (those between the ages of 15 and 34 by DHET’s definition) were not in employment, education or training (NEET).

The 2018 matric results show that, potentially, nearly half a million young people will join these ranks. But, even with a qualification, there is a large body of research that shows jobs are not guaranteed for matriculants, technical and university graduates alike.

So, what can be done?  

Community Education and Training Colleges’ (CETC) primary mandate is adult literacy and numeracy. There is an opportunity to capacitate these colleges to offer matric level subjects and programmes.

The “second chance” matric programme, a recently established initiative by the DBE, is available to learners writing matric supplementary exams, part-time, progressed learners and learners with a grade 9 pass. It is offered through individual or face-to-face tuition and has supplementary teaching and learning platforms such as broadcast and digital media, past examination paper and study guides. This is a remedial programme that should be offered at CETCs as well, thereby creating an alternative pathway for those who fail matric. This will not only reduce the burden on the DBE having to deal with those who didn’t matriculate, but can make CETCs a place of choice for those wanting a second bite at getting a matric certificate or an equivalent; something that holds premium value in the country.

One of Tshikululu’s clients is piloting a flagship CETC programme in the Northern Cape. Tshikululu designed and is implementing the strategy, which is built on four pillars: institutional capacity, programme mix, infrastructure and advocacy/partnerships.

Given that CETCs are new types of institutions in the country and their purpose and role remains unclear, Tshikululu identified these four pillars as key to piloting, sustaining and scaling the CETC model. As part of programme mix, the second chance matric programme is being introduced in 2019 because community engagements and surveys highlighted that a large number of youth drop-out before matric and join the ranks of the NEETs.

Tshikululu will be piloting this programme with local high schools, using high performing teachers from both public and private education institutions and resourcing the CETCs with digital materials and equipment. We are working closely with the district office as they have to take ownership of the programme when our client exits. Entrepreneurial programmes will also be introduced as there are many opportunities for people to start small businesses in hairdressing, beauty therapy, furniture making, cell phone repairs, tyre fitting, animal husbandry and horticulture, etc.

Building institutional capacity forms part of our long-term strategy, as these new offerings will require appropriate skills and knowledge. Growing the capacity of educators, district and college management and governance capacity-building will also help DHET with training approaches and provisioning for the system as a whole.

A big part of our strategy is to mobilise communities, traditional leaders, local business, development funding and youth organisations to rally behind this initiative and make them understand the role and purpose of the CETC in the broader Post School Education and Training (PSET) sector. Partnerships with corporates are also being pursued as corporates, through some of their foundations, have programmes in the areas of digital and information literacy, data management systems, financial literacy and entrepreneurship.

Although this is a pilot, we have set our eyes on influencing the form and strategic direction of CETCs going forward. We hope to play a catalytic role in the development of a properly coordinated inter-departmental strategy that talks to educator training at CETCs, resourcing, infrastructure and programme offerings.

At Tshikululu, we are about “deep and sustainable change” and the CETC pilot provides a meaningful opportunity for us not to only deliver measurable meaningful impact for our client but also make a significant contribution to changing the fortunes of young people in this country.