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Motalatale S. Modiba
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‘Last minute culture’ destroying us

11 January 2012, 07:51
The ‘last minute culture’ is destroying our kids’ future

It is with aggravating sorrow that I lament the death of a parent who was killed and 17 others injured in a stampede yesterday at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) while trying to secure a better future for her child.

36 years after the 1976 uprisings, which were essentially about access to better education, I should not have to bemoan an incident that has robbed a child of a mother all in the name of pursuing a better education. Sadly, as things stand I am.

The UJ’s death is one death too many. It should never, ever, happen again!

After receiving news of the above incident I immediately recalled a brief but alarming conversation I had with a 21-year-old who was on her way to register at one of Ekurhuleni’s FET colleges.

The young girl (whom I will call Busi) mentioned that while she was going to register a secretarial course what she really wanted to pursue was electrical engineering. When I asked the reason for this diversion it then became clear that her mathematics and science final matric results did not come anywhere close to the minimum requirement for her to enroll in an engineering course.

Upon further probing I realized I came in a bit too late in Busi’s life. Although she completed her matric about two years ago and she wanted to pursue electrical engineering, it never occurred to her that by now she could have upgraded her subjects and thus able to pursue her career of choice.

Busi’s situation in a way mirrors the long queues that are experienced every year at our tertiary institutions around this time.

According to reports the death of the UJ parent is linked to last minute panic as thousands of applicants camped outside the university all hoping to get accepted for 2012. 

The fundamental challenge here for me is that career guidance at many of our schools remains an add-on activity whereas it should be compulsory. As a result of this gap many learners like Busi cannot reconcile the relationship between the subjects they choose at secondary level and the career path they want to pursue.

The second issue is an inherent ‘last minute culture’ that continue to derail our scholars. It is this culture that causes students to lax in effort in the middle of the year with the misplaced hope that they can still give it their best shot at the end of the year.  Unfortunately, when learners’ mid-year results are not good enough it forces them to frantically look for space at universities in January. This then results in registration nightmare for institutions.

The other downside of this culture is that eventually courses choose learners instead of them choosing, as they either don’t qualify for their intended courses like Busi or there simply is no space.

Lastly, the secondary education that our learners receive does not give them any usable skills that they can fall back on in case they fall short academically. I believe that the long registration queues are all credited to a hunger to pursue a better education; some are a panic response to the reality that what else can one do with no practical skill.

To address this problem my proposal is that:

  • Career counseling should become compulsory at secondary schools
  • All learners prior to completing their Grade 12 should undergo a free career pathing exercise to better know themselves
  • Application fees for mid-year applications should be waivered to encourage more learners to register on time
  • Technical schools should be re-opened asap, this will ensure that learners that are more technically inclined leave their matric with a usable skill.
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