The latest matric pass rate for 2017 is around 75%, meaning that at least a quarter of all leaners who wrote their matric exams in December 2017 cannot be admitted to further their studies at any of the mainstream further education institutions, that is, TVETs, Colleges, Universities of Technology and universities. That is despite the fact that these institutions can only admit a limited number of students for formal academic programmes due to limited capacity and resources. Thus, further painting a gloomy picture regarding the future of young people in the country.
This then brings into focus other alternative avenues that matriculants and young people in general could pursue. There is no doubt that the country requires more young people, who are the future leaders of this country, to pursue academic and research careers to contribute to socio-economic development and economic growth in the country.
Studies show that countries that invest more in R&D achieve better economic growth rates and socio-economic development. Thus, the country needs more young people to enrol for post graduate and PhD research programmes at universities to pursue careers in R&D.
However, those who cannot follow academic and research careers need to be presented with alternative careers that they could pursue. Entrepreneurship and leadership are some of the key areas that our country needs to focus a lot more on. A career in entrepreneurship should not be seen as a career of last resort when everything else has failed.
Many immigrants in the country from countries north of our borders and from across the globe whose home countries face even tougher challenges have demonstrated that entrepreneurship can open doors to self-empowerment and sustainable livelihoods. But, this should not be done haphazardly or by trial and error.
Sound policies and strategies involving government, private sector and civil society should be put in place to cultivate and nurture entrepreneurship. The government policy of Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment provides a legislative and policy framework for creating platforms to promote and accelerate entrepreneurship and economic transformation.
However, more work needs to be done to ensure that entrepreneurship, particularly among young people who constitute the biggest section of our population, becomes a career of choice. Existing enterprise and supplier development programmes in both the public and private sector should be given similar attention and significance as bursaries and internship programmes in a drive to promote entrepreneurship as equally important career among the youth. Similar fanfare accorded to our sport stars, musicians and high-achieving matriculants should be accorded to entrepreneurs.
SMMEs account for more than 70% of jobs created in the country and thus its role in our society should be prioritised and celebrated as such.
Thabo Diseko, BEE Consultant, PhD Candidate in Governance and Political Transformation at the University of the Free State. I am writing in my personal capacity. Views expressed in this article are mine and not those of the university. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org