President Cyril Ramaphosa says economies across Africa are unable to absorb a significant proportion of young people and that’s mainly because the education system is not aligned to the needs of the economy.
Ramaphosa was addressing the two-day dialogue of the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) at Emperor’s Palace, Kempton Park, on Monday.
In attendance were ministers of education from across Africa, including SA’ basic education minister Angie Motshekga.
Here’s a summary of Ramaphosa’s address in six quotes:
Unemployment rate among graduates
Rampahosa said most unemployed young people across Africa are those who have completed secondary or tertiary education.
“Unemployment is lower among those who have little to no education. You may ask, how is it so? Agriculture is the largest employer, and for now, it is labour intensive and requires workers who in most cases are without education. Those who completed secondary or tertiary education are finding it difficult to secure employment. Among other things, this is due to a mismatch of the skills people learn and the needs of the market.”
Changing the direction of education
He said the country and its teachers need to change the direction of secondary school education to develop relevant skills to match the fourth industrial revolution.
“With the advent of the fourth industrial revolution, there is a danger that this mismatch will grow. Due to the skills deficit, our countries are ill-prepared for technological change.
“Successful countries are those that ensure that the skills they produce are the skills that are appropriate for industrial use.”
Technology replacing workers
Ramaphosa said there was an increase in unemployment due to the use of technology to replace workers.
“The impetus for economic activity is shifting from very large enterprises to smaller individual-led companies.
“An entrepreneur developing his or her product in a garage is now likely to create more value-chain jobs than a big manufacturing company. The manufacturing sector, while still a significant driver of growth, is not generating as many jobs as in previous decades.”
Ramaphosa believes that young people need foundational cognitive skills in science, technology engineering and mathematics – the so-called STEM skills – to be absorbed in the economy.
“As agreed in Agenda 2063, of those who enter tertiary education institutions, 70% ideally should graduate in STEM subjects.
“Digital skills, such as coding, are essential to integration in the world of work. Such skills should be accompanied by soft skills such as emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills and excellent communication skills.”
Secondary education’s crucial role
Ramaphosa said secondary education occupies a crucial role in setting young people on a path to sustainable and inclusive development, but this means getting the basics right earlier in their lives.
“Secondary education intervenes in young people’s lives at a time when they are most energised, but also most vulnerable to adverse social influences.
“Secondary education empowers young people at a time when they are most hopeful, experimental and flexible in their lives, and we should embrace this life stage as one to empower young people to take charge of their lives and our collective future.”
Problem solving and reasoning
He said instead of rote learning, young people need skills in unstructured problem-solving and reasoning.
“Critical thinking skills are what will drive job creation and economic growth in the future. We must change our educational systems to develop these skills.
“Africa is expected to be the food basket of the world because of its geographic position and climate, and a large population of young people.”