The tragedy about today’s society is that success is often measured by prestige and money. There is a misconception about the value of education globally, especially in the third world countries like South Africa. Many people think that the acquisition of degrees from first rate universities is enough to give you success. I totally disagree. Education is necessary for people to train their minds, interact well and solve life problems but it is not the only route to success in life. But you need an education to be successful in the long term. Luck and charm can only get you so far before people will realize you're an idiot.
Government globally should deemphasize the importance of paper qualification to that of mind training for better things as a developmental strategy while encouraging people to go to school and be literate. That said people should also be encouraged to do what they love best, this will bring out the best in them anyway. Unfortunately, in South Africa, there is the belief that completion of university education will bring instant wealth through blue chip companies. This article is not to deride those with formal education or others who have the desire to pursue one but to say that formal education is not the be-all and end-all of life. But also to emphasize the point that the odds are stacked up against you in making a decent living in a third world country like South Africa if you do not have a formal qualification.
Below, I have provided real life examples of some people that I have come across with in my life and these are their stories about “achieving success” if I could say so:
Let me start with Sean Palmer. He was never really the brightest kid in class. I remember Mrs Combrink in Grade 6 use to ask him a simple Mathematical question and he would always get it wrong. He had a low attention span. Strangely we went to the same primary school and high school. He dropped out of school in Grade 9, that was 2001. Today in 2012 he is working for a factory as a blue collar worker in the Eastrand and is living comfortably according to his standards with a salary of between R11 000- R15000 at the age of 25 with no college or university degree.
Then there is Clement Dhlomo, he completed his BCom Accounting degree at one of the leading tertiary institutions in South Africa. He decided that this accounting and auditing life is not for him. He decided to follow his passion and pursue a career in the television/ entertainment industry. I can tell you today that Clement is successful in his television career without any educational background in this field. He has worked with international TV networks. He is settled in a job that he loves and gives him fulfilment. He is highly in demand in his industry at the age of 25 years making well over R25 000 per month.
Nsizwa Mabena was a law student at university and subsequently dropped out in second year. He is now working as a call centre agent for an insurance company. He is only 25 years and has a basic salary of about R15 000; and based on his performance on sales his salary can reach anything between R23 000- R30 000. This is not too bad for a young black man that is single and has no family burden or responsibility.
Another interesting person is Thandeka Sibanyoni, after she finished her Matric she went to study at a local college. She completed a finance course at this college. She was so proud of her achievement; I remember vividly walking into her apartment seeing that certificate hanging on the wall. She came to the big city Johannesburg and found a job at one of the four major banks in South Africa. She has been working at that bank for the past 7 years. She is now 25 years and making R7 000 per month. For the past 3 years she keeps telling me that she would like to go back to school and further her studies to fulfil her dreams. That dream of going to varsity has yet to be realised. She has been procrastinating and nothing has happened. She is still stuck in a job that she hates to the grave.
Nthabiseng Mokwetla, 24 years old working for a courier company that she detests and she takes home R5 000 at the end of the month. She had a well off father that was prepared to take her to university after completing her Matric. But instead, she dilly dallied around and was not serious about going to school yet she had a strong ambition of doing a BCom degree that never took off. Every time when she meets me she always asks me what does she need to do to complete a BCom degree. I have been telling her the same thing for the past 6 years yet there is still no degree in sight.
Then there is a group of Kasi boys that I know. They feel that they have arrived and have achieved success according to their standards. Which is a great thing off course and I am proud of them. These boys aged between 20-26 years after finishing Matric they decided to go and work for Sasol. They make a basic salary of about R11000 per month and their salary can go up to R20 000 if they work enough hours doing overtime on weekends and night shift at this Sasol Plant. They have a tendency of buying a Golf 1 and stay in their mother’s house ko Kasi ko backroom. This breed of male species is the hottest and most happening thing in any township since the average income for most families in a township is about R5000 per month. These boys can get any girl they want eKasi and they have achieved success according to their own measure.
I will never forget this boy by the name of Sakhumzi Majola for the rest of my life. I remember he finished his Matric a year before me. His parents decided to take him to a tertiary institution. He didn’t last long there as he felt bored for some or other reason. He decided to retire from school and take up a position as waiter on a full time basis. He was making about R1 850 per month excluding his tips at the time. A year later after finishing my Matric I told him that I was going to further my studies. He uttered the following words to me and I quote: “Hambaniniye esikoleni, thina siyasebenza niyositholaphambili!” Transalation is, isiZulu asitolikwa. Needless to say, today Sakhumzi is working at a different company making a mere R2 500 per month and staying at his grandmother’s house as a 25 year old man in the year 2011.
The whole education route has proved to work for some and continue to reap the rewards. Sifiso Ngwenya is a 26 year old professional that is working in Sandton with two degrees behind his name. He is making R450k per annum equivalent to R37 500 per month. Not only is Sifiso a full time working professional he is also still pushing two other post graduate degrees concurrently at UNISA.
Thabiso Mphahlela is a classic example that proves that education is not everything and does not guarantee success in future. I went to varsity with him and he completed his BA degree about two years ago. As we speak today he has yet to find a 9 to 5 job. He has been sending his CV/resume left right and centre with no luck of securing employment. He is hustling now and trying to push his private business but things do not seem to be working out for him despite the fact that he has a university degree.
Masenya Mokoena has defied the odds. He has never sat foot at a tertiary institution before, all he has is a Matric from a township school. All he had was a dream and a vision for his life. Today he owns his company and is doing very well in his business for a 26 year old with a turnover of R500 000.
Some of the real life examples that I have tabled above prove that you will not necessarily fail in life without a formal degree. However there is no way you can climb the corporate ladder WITHOUT a degree. If all your skills are well, the company will tell you to get a degree to climb the ladder. To be part of the “C- Suite” i.e., CEO, CIO, CFO, CAE, and COO etc for any company you need a reputable qualification to separate you from the rest of the people competing with you. The only way you will do well in life without a college degree is if you know how to run your own business and make the millions that your heart desires. That is if your objective is to make millions and be a force to be reckoned with in our society.
Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are some of the billionaires in the world who have made it life with completing a tertiary qualification. But do not be fooled the odds are against you.
Truth be told, success is a subjective word, it is in the eye of the beholder. To one, success may mean living on their own without parents help and owning a car while making R10 000 a month. To some success may mean living in a million dollar home, driving a Bentley and living a fabulous life of glitz and glamour. To another, success may mean doing missionary work somewhere in Africa where struggling people are in dire need for help and support.
The secret to success is not found in education. Success' secret is in discipline. Success is when someone is working to achieve a goal or dream. One needs the discipline to stick to a task to be successful.
It's when you lose hope for tomorrow, that you have lost all hope for today.
NOTE: Fictitious names were created to protect the identities of the individuals concerned.