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Debate: Contextual considerations on the role of education as incubator for skills acquisition amongst the youth, Honourable Alvin Botes

27 MARCH 2018

The political ethos, mantra and creed of realizing education as a commodity of necessity is firmly dedicated to the young martyrs of the peoples struggle, and in particular remembrance that in 10 days time we will have the 39th commemoration of the execution of Solomon Mahlangu. Solomon Mahlangu has been instructive that we our youth should continue to reap the fruits of the tree which his death has borne. The history of South Africa is one besieged with the most acute social fault-lines, of having the twin-dangers of poverty and unemployment, which negatively affect our youth and students.

We remind our youth and students that during his inaugural, though seminal State of the Nation address, President Ramaphosa indicated, "our most grave and most pressing challenge is youth unemployment". Fortunately, South Africa is a giant social laboratory, which has produced multifaceted successes, through the ANC, the peoples` movement. The current conjuncture and acumen of our societal leadership, represented by President Cyril Ramaphosa, has imbued a conviction in all our people that their interests and that of the grievance of the youth is paramount and of necessary consequent to our of government.

The question of Free Higher Education has correctly directed a twin impulse of legitimate societal leadership and an active citizenry, which feeds on each other to propel society to greater heights. The question of free education has its roots embedded in a shared prosperity and social justice.

The decisive political decision by our President to immediately implement the free education for the poor student is part of a historical thesis of transforming and tilting the apartheid state colossus and orient it towards a human peoples project. The singular objective to avail more than 57 billion rand for our free higher education is central to the task of abolishing a major source of social conflict, which is unemployment.

A caring government, such as the one led by President Ramaphosa would ordinarily use redistributive mechanisms of the fiscus to provide a safety net for the poor, and his commitment to our needy students is hugely and commonly known. We have been firmly committed that all needy students of the more than 985 thousand students enrolled since last year at universities, will be funded comprehensively. The optimistic expectation of our people has necessitated that NSFAS equally so gets adequate money to ensure that those families who fall outside of the R350 thousand income bracket per year, their children also access equitable education. NSFAS will continue to fund almost 300 thousand students, with more than 195 thousand returning students and just under 100 thousand first time students. An important incubator of knowledge and skills acquisition, TVET college education of over 290 thousand students will be funded. Radical socio-economic change requires a necessary social agency, led by a conscious and more importantly, a pro-poor student steward, as espoused by President Ramaphosa.

The Anti- Thesis to Freedom from poverty and prosperity is youth unemployment. According to Statistics South Africa, youth aged 15 to 34 years accounted for almost 20 million of the working age population in the third quarter of 2016, however only 6.2 million were employed. The situation is even worse for youth aged 15 to 24 years. These age groups are expected to either attend school or engage in employment. However, their unemploymentrate in the third quarter of 2016 was 54.2%, which was more than three times higher than the unemployment rate for adults aged 35 to 64 years (17.5%)

Despite soaring levels of investment in skills development over the last decade, South Africa still suffers from a lack in the supply of skills and the exclusion of over 3.1 million young people aged 15 to 24 years whom are not in employment, education or training. The final arbiter on youth unemployment is a pro-poor government, seize with skills development. A direct consequence of our caring government has been a skills-architecture endowed with 50 TVET colleges, 26 universities, and 9 CET colleges, established in every province; augmented by 21 SETA`s.

Linked to the existing education architecture is the expansion of the Sol Plaatje University (SPU) in Kimberley, Northern Cape Province, and the University of Mpumalanga (UMP) in Mbombela, Mpumalanga Province. Both universities opened their doors to their third intake of students during the 2016 academic year, enrolling 703 students at SPU and 1 261 at UMP. With regard to the infrastructure programme for SPU and UMP, an amount of approximately R2.9 billion will be made available over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) for the next phase of development and expansion at both institutions. We remind our youth and students in Northern Cape and Mpumalanga that we are just loudly proclaiming what is happening! (Rosa Luxemburg).

We must seek to address the racist orientation of the question posed many decades back by the direct forebears of some amongst the opposition benches, who posed the question "what is the use of teaching a Bantu child mathematics, when it cannot use it in practice?". Hendrik Verwoerd would have felt completely humiliated had he known that in a democratic South Africa, more than 12 000 African Chartered Accountants (CA`s), has demonstrated that no cognitive limitations exists as a result of race classification. In fact, an increasing number of the more than 58 000 graduates in Science, Engineering and Technology are Black Africans. Antonio Gramsci has been instructive when he said, to tell the truth is revolutionary!

Notably, the number of Research Masters and Doctoral (PhD) graduates increased at a higher rate than the overall number of graduates, which is critical because it is on these post-graduates that the country depends for its future academics, researchers and other leaders within knowledge-intensive professions. The number of Research Masters graduates increased by over 20 percent to 7 317 graduates. Our own young leader, Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, Honourable Buti Manamela, has conform to the roll-call of the ANC Mangaung National Conference that the decade of the cadre, must be underpinned by the accumulation of amongst other things, substantive academic knowledge. We congratulate him on attainment of the Master`s Degree in Management (MM), at Wits University.

We acknowledge that as sons and daughters of Nelson Mandela, we are the carriers of the burden of history. The National Development Plan (NDP) has directed us to realize 1.6 million in higher education by 2030. The mirror-image of the South African youth and student-chapter is President Ramaphosa. The launching of the Youth Emmployment Service (YES), augmented by existing instruments on youth skills such as the National Youth Service Programme (NYSP) and the Youth Employment Accord, as well as the National Youth Wage Subsidy, seeks to be the concentric circles to confront youth joblessness. We are therefore not surprise, nor startled that Stats SA has just announced that for the last quarter of 2017, new jobs to the tune of 81 000 has been created…we tell no lies, nor claim easy victories (Amilcar Cabral).

A lie told often, becomes the truth. We never imagine that Vladimir Lenin`s seminal works were an instruction note to the South African youth and students. `They say` that "education is not worth its salt, as education do not increase employability". What a lie! Stats SA data from the second quarter (2017) indicated that only 7.4 percent of graduates were unemployed, in stark contrast to 27.9 percent unemployment found amongst youth with only a matric qualification. This undeniable and authoritative fact buttresses the significance of increasing post school education and training. We have been told…

The current conjuncture, correctly called a new dawn of positivity, present an opportunity for a peoples pro-poor government to radically shift the socio-economic trajectory to the poor and the working class. President Ramaphosa new-dawn serves as a Repository for the Restoration of a new value-system, Revival of class-consciousness and Resilience of a people-centered people-caring government. This is an epoch we are to bear witness to the occasion of having 1 million youth as students in higher education, supplemented by undermining youth hopelessness through the creating of 1 million youth jobs and skills possibilities.

I have been told, to tell the truth is revolutionary!

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