Context is key in building a campus

2017-09-24 06:26
Buti Manamela

Buti Manamela

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As the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality in Gauteng advocates the establishment of a university, we need to ask the following questions: What does the city envisage for the role the university will play?

Is the university being considered for the direct economic role it can play, or are there broader implications for what it will do?

Does the need for such an institution arise for what it can contribute to an unknown future, or for what it can contribute to our social and cultural vitality?

As we ponder the role of this university, another key question to ask is, what is the national context into which it fits?

The National Development Plan 2030 seeks to eradicate the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality.

At the centre of the plan is the development and enhancement of human capabilities to solve problems, derive benefit from what society can provide and contribute to a developmental state.

It is clear that government cannot achieve this vision without the cooperation and contribution of business, labour and communities.

These stakeholders need to work together to achieve faster economic growth and a democratic society.

To achieve this vision, the plan argues that South Africans should have access to education and training of the highest quality as this will lead to significantly improved learning outcomes.

The key driver of poverty is unemployment. The most likely way to escape poverty is by getting employed.

To do so, you have to be employable. A key way to make someone employable is to educate them.

There is enough evidence internationally and locally that points to an inverse correlation between qualification and unemployment.

Put simply, this means that, the higher a person’s qualification, the lower the probability he or she will remain unemployed.

So, with higher qualifications, young people can increase their chances of being employed, especially in the formal labour force. This decreases their chances of sinking into poverty.

Post-school training

In the group known as Neets – young people not taking part in education, employment or training – the trend is similar.

Since most Neets do not have a Grade 12 qualification, they cannot access tertiary education, nor are they equipped with skills to help them find work or make them attractive candidates to employers.

Everyone should work hard to ensure that fewer youngsters become part of this group.

To this end, we must emphasise the importance of obtaining post-school training for young people and reduce our school and college drop-out rates.

As a country, we are committed to building adequate and relevant skills. This has been shown by government prioritising education in its policies and budget plans.

While we are investing more on the supply side – in terms of providing relevant graduates to industry – it is important that the supply is aligned with demand.

Ekurhuleni should invest in developing a scarce and critical skills database as it will help determine the types of skills needed by industries and whether the skills needed require an intermediate or high level of education.

This is crucial in ensuring that we guard against our youngsters obtaining a qualification and being unable to secure employment – a phenomenon that is gradually developing with regard to some qualifications.

Not only does Ekurhuleni need to match demand and supply to curb youth unemployment, it also has to develop and enhance the quality of education offered by existing institutions, as well as their efficiency at producing their human capital.

The skills supply does not start after school, but at school level. For development to take place and thrive, basic education should produce quality outcomes.

Gauteng is one of the leading provinces that contribute immensely towards the achievement of quality basic education.

Establishing a university is a long-term process.

In this regard, questions must be asked about the role played by Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges in Ekurhuleni.

Is there an expanded role for them to play in bridging some of the skills gaps identified in the city? A case could be made for TVET colleges to play a more defined role while the city awaits a university.

More questions arise, especially with regard to the role that virtual learning can play. The tuition costs for virtual learning are lower and it does not require extensive bricks and mortar.

Virtual learning aligns with the demands of the fourth industrial revolution. Should we not give it serious consideration, particularly in this digital age?

Perhaps we can consider digital learning and migrate later into a hybrid education model.

As you deliberate on the need for a university within the City of Ekurhuleni, consider how your plans will contribute to reducing youth unemployment and poverty; to promoting science, technology and engineering; to centralising the role of education; and to how the university can be used to stimulate social and cultural vitality.

Manamela is deputy minister in the presidency and national secretary of the Young Communist League of SA.

This is an edited extract of a speech he delivered this week at the Ekurhuleni University Symposium

Read more on:    buti manamela  |  ekurhuleni

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