Teachers must be 'skilled counsellors'

2010-07-07 20:13

Pretoria - The country needs to work towards a system where every teacher is skilled as a career guidance counsellor, Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande said on Wednesday.

"Career guidance must be built into teacher education. We must work to strengthen that," said Nzimande at the launch of the ministerial flagship programme on career guidance in Pretoria, particularly targeting pupils in rural areas.

"We must put resources to it unashamedly."

Nzimande described the state of career guidance in schools as "very unsatisfactory".

He said the lack of information and guidance for pupils contributed to the high drop-out and failure rates in universities and colleges.

Mandela Day campaign

The career guidance programme aims at mobilising professionals to give 67 minutes of their time to help high school pupils with information on universities and colleges, various courses, financial aid, bursaries and training opportunities.

The programme was in line with the Mandela Day campaign, which encourages people to use 67 minutes of their time to support a charity of their choice or to perform community service.

"Help the next generation to access higher education and training opportunities: if we can get it right, then half of the problems faced by learners in higher education will be solved. We will make very big strides," said Nzimande.

The 67 minutes symbolically represents the number of years former president Nelson Mandela spent fighting for the abolition of apartheid.

Nzimande said the career guidance initiative was a tribute to Mandela's commitment to human rights, education and youth development.

67 bursaries

As a result, a total of 67 bursaries will be made available for matriculants in the Giyani area of Limpopo for the 2011 academic year.

Nzimande said because the lack of career guidance was mostly prevalent in townships and rural areas and among children in poor socio-economic conditions, the campaign would start in Giyani.

About 1 000 high school pupils were expected at the Letaba FET College on July 18, where they would be advised on a spectrum of opportunities for higher learning and skills development to help them choose a career.

Nzimande said the campaign would be expanded annually to other rural areas.

"Over the next year, we hope to mobilise all tiers of government in all provinces to participate," he said.

Post-school options

The department had partnered with various organisations and institutions, including the SA Qualifications Authority (SAQA), which now has a toll-free helpline staffed with career guidance counsellors to help youth.

SAQA was allocated R100m over the next three years.

Nzimande indicated they were also working on improving the efficiency of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, to help more young people to access post-school learning and training.

"We are looking to increase and diversify post-school options," he said.

His director general Mary Metcalfe cautioned that pupils needed to look at other alternatives of learning apart from universities and colleges. She said information in this regard can be obtained from the State Information Technology Agency.

Metcalfe said the skills infrastructure that currently exists must provide bridges to a range of activities for young unemployed people.

"If they have skills, then they can operate."