Audit exposes chaos at FETs

2012-05-05 17:27

Unqualified lecturers, poor financial management and reluctance among issues

An audit of South Africa’s Further Education and Training (FET) colleges has revealed hopelessly underqualified lecturers, financial shambles and school leavers reluctant to enrol.

The report, compiled by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), comes to light as the department of higher education and training is touting the FETs as the answer to oversubscribed universities and massive unemployment.

Last month, President Jacob Zuma, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande and several other ministers met with principals of the nation’s 50 FET colleges to discuss the problems they face.

But the report, compiled for but never released by the higher education department, found:

» Despite a government target of a million enrolments by 2014, student enrolment has declined by about 80 000 over the past decade. The audit did not focus on why;

» Although there have been a number of calls by senior politicians, including Zuma, for school leavers to register at FETs, there has been no increase in the number of those enrolled over the past three years. The numbers have instead fluctuated between 290 000 and 330 000;

» There was a “massive amount of turbulence” in terms of academic staff turnover;

» About 57% of academic staff have qualifications lower than that of a degree or higher diploma; and

» About 19% of academic staff are qualified at less than diploma level.

The report also noted problems in the financial management of FET colleges.

Between 2007 and 2010, the report says, many of the 50 FET colleges received more than one qualified audit. Only 13 of the FETs had appointed a chief financial officer.

Although the law required that a financial officer be appointed, the report revealed that the chances of such a person succeeding in the FET environment were “slight”.

“This is a poor reflection on the accounting capacity of colleges, underscoring the need for a chief financial officer to be appointed in each college,” the report said.

Last month, Zuma said the government wanted to “send out a strong message that, while universities and universities of technology are important, FET colleges are equally important.

“Universities are important in any economy, but the example of successful industrialised economies, such as Germany, all point to the importance of vocational training,” he said.

Zuma also announced that R2.5 billion had been set aside for the expansion and renovation of FET colleges.

In the department of higher education’s green paper released for comment earlier this year, the department set itself the goal of four million college and post-school enrolments by 2030.

However, the report revealed that those wishing to enrol at FETs had declined over the past decade.

It also found that there was a serious shortage of post-college opportunities and internships for FET graduates, which Nzimande said was a critical problem.

The report further stated that the scarcity of hiring agreements between FETs, sector education and training authorities and business “suggested the need for partnerships to be built with far wider range of players and on a much more intensive basis”.

The department of higher education was unavailable for comment.

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