We will transform Setas – nothing less

2011-05-14 10:34

The smoke and mirrors of the court challenges of the Services Seta, which has resulted in the current court judgment and which we will appeal, must be exposed for what they are – resistance to change.

Much has been made about us imposing a new constitution on this Seta and others, and our desire to install independent chairpersons. It is important that this be put into proper perspective.

Our desire to integrate the post-school system has never been a secret. In fact, this vision is contained in a number of documents and declarations from a number of stakeholder summits the department has convened over the past year.

It is a vision that seeks to invest significantly in higher-education institutions, especially the Further Education and Training (FET) colleges. At the heart of this is the aligning of all higher education and training institutions, including the Setas, into the building of accessible post-school education and training.

But what has been unacceptable thus far?

Setas have been operating through different governance models, which have not facilitated effective oversight by the ministry.

Despite the good work done by many Setas, we all agree that billions of rands of Seta money have been disproportionately spent on short training courses, while our country is desperately short of artisans, technicians, technologists and professionals.

This is akin to reproducing cheap labour through the perpetuation of the misalignment of the production of skills and the skills needs of the country.

This situation meant that more than 90% of the R8 billion in the Setas would end up in the pockets of private providers of skills, with the rest directed as virtual crumbs to FET colleges and universities of technology. This cannot be allowed to persist.

It has also been agreed that it is anomalous for Setas to accredit institutions that they subsequently offer tenders to facilitate training. Such a system has created fertile ground for corruption and tenderpreneurs. It is for this reason that we intend undertaking an audit of the relationship between the Setas, and public and private providers.

While there are a lot of negatives in how resources were used to keep the Seta system alive, it is heartening to realise that almost all the Setas, save the Services Seta, and many other key stakeholders acknowledge that there is a need for urgent transformation.

In a meeting held with all the Setas last week, a declaration was adopted where all the Setas pledged their full support for the ministry’s bid to transform the Seta landscape. This declaration has debunked the myth that all these Setas are refusing to change. Nothing is further from the truth.

The Seta forum reiterated that it would cooperate with the minister in implementing his vision for the post-school education and training landscape, and the overall transformation and development agenda for the Seta landscape.

It is clear to us that redirecting and aligning the Setas to a new post-school education and training agenda will encounter resistance from elements accustomed to spending the levy funds without adequate accountability.

We understand that those who stand to lose from a tightened Seta landscape will try to frustrate change.

We stand ready to continue with our transformation agenda. We do this because we understand fully that unless significant resources are directed at improving the skills of the majority of black youth, we will not achieve our goals of eradicating poverty and creating jobs.

This vision is contained in our new skills development plan that seeks to build bonds among stakeholders to redirect more resources to occupational and professional programmes.

We have to send a strong message to whoever plans to resist these changes that we will not back down.

We are clear that Setas have to commit to certain milestones through a formal service-level agreement with the ministry.

Finally, with their resources Setas should be at the forefront of creating the much-needed jobs while being sustainable. When democracy knocked on our door, not everyone was leaping for joy. Similarly, we don’t expect everyone to like the shake-up of what has been creating undue wealth for some in certain cases.

» Nzimande is Minister of Higher Education and Training

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