WHILE many matriculants are still in high spirits over obtaining their National Senior Certificates, Equal Education cautions against promoting a matric certificate as a gateway to guaranteed success.
At a time when excitement and pride fills the minds and hearts of many matrics, the hard-hitting post-school reality is something many will need to grapple with as unemployment lurks.
According to Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), the country’s unemployment rate has been constantly rising over the past nine years and is now at 27.7%, the youth (ages 15 to 34) bearing the brunt of it with a 38.6% unemployment rate.
Over the past year, the biggest increase in the unemployment rate observed by Stats SA was in the Eastern Cape, which increased by 3.8 percentage points to 32.2%. Attaining a 65% matric pass rate last year, the Eastern Cape also remains the worst performing province, retaining last place for the eighth year in a row.
Equal Education (EE) is a movement of pupils, parents, and teachers striving for quality and equality in South African education through analysis and activism.
Issues of inequality in education are addressed through public action and advocacy using mass mobilisation and traditional and new media to build public pressure on the relevant stakeholders to address problems.
EE point to low economic growth as the primary contributing factor for high unemployment rates, but also emphasise this link between high unemployment rates and poor quality education.
“I do think there is also a direct link between a dysfunctional and unequal schooling system – as we have seen in the Eastern Cape, and access to opportunities – be it higher education or employment,” EE Eastern Cape deputy head Amanda Rinquest said.
“Lack of school infrastructure, lack of proper planning from the Eastern Cape Department of Education (ECDoE), lack of teachers, lack of scholar transport etc mean that pupils have to work even harder to gain entry into the job market or higher education,” she said.
Yet, despite the majority of unemployed youths being those who did not obtain a matric certificate or move on to tertiary education, university graduates face a harsh 7.3% unemployment rate, according to Stats SA.
“Our labour market is physically unable to accommodate the large numbers of young, new entrants and this is the major factor.
“This lack of economic growth, ie not enough jobs for the amount of job seekers, is something that not even university graduates are immune to,” Rinquest said.
Furthermore, 30% of the 10.3 million youths are not in employment, education or training (NEETs).A large number of youths are neither learning nor are they engaged in income generating activities, meaning that they are unable to improve their employment prospects.
“As far as short-term measures to assist young job seekers, EE is supportive of the recommendations put forward by researchers from the University of Johannesburg (UJ), and University of Cape Town (UCT), in a 2016 paper,” Rinquest said.
The authors of the 2016 paper entitled “Youth unemployment: what can we do in the short run?” suggest three recommendations as follows:
- The appointment criteria of employers to be adjusted. Employers escalate the educational requirements for entry-level jobs, risking the exclusion of many capable young employees.
- Exploring a national transport subsidy so that impoverished youths may access job opportunities denied to them by the legacy of colonialism and apartheid spatial planning.
- Taking impactful, cost- effective youth employability programmes to scale, in order to help youths to research and apply for jobs.
EE also urges drastic government intervention in order to curb the downward spiral of youth unemployment in the long run.