FINWEEK: How important is private sector involvement in remedying the education crisis we are seeing in South Africa?
Reaan Immelman: Forging strong Public-Private partnerships is imperative if we are to meaningfully address and overcome the many challenges – education being one of them – faced by young people across the continent today. The private sector must therefore be at the forefront of driving solutions with regards to the state of education in SA in partnership with public sector institutions.
Investment in knowledge lends itself towards great returns, and we have a mandate to invest in education and skills development in order to improve the lives of young people in SA, and the continent.
FW: For those that failed matric, a professional future may seem far off. What advice do you have for matriculants that did not pass matric? Are there other avenues (other than repeating the year) they can pursue in order to gain employment?
RI: The good news is that failing matric is by no means the end of the road. We do encourage matriculants to re-do their Grade 12 year where possible, so as to improve their chances of pursuing a tertiary education.
However, it is also important for young people to play to their strengths and leverage their unique capabilities and skillsets. As such we encourage young people to actively develop their skills through avenues such as the free ReadytoWork programme, in order to enhance their employability and entrepreneurial prospects.
Matriculants should also consider pursuing trade skills, which in are current economic climate are very necessary but often overlooked.
FW: What do you think can be done in terms of promoting trade skills in order to ensure that students that do not necessarily excel academically can pursue other avenues in order to secure a job? Do you think this is something that should be considered more seriously?
RI: Absolutely. Young people/students should consider alternatives to university. There is currently a growing skilled labour shortage on the African continent and according to the Master Builders Association of the Western Cape, SA has a shortage of bricklayers, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, and plasterers.
Technical and Vocational Education and Training Colleges (TVET) and their offerings need to be promoted more among our youth.
In doing so we also ensure that we are aligning and supporting government’s National Development Plan (NDP) objectives as part of the broader efforts to address skill shortages, unemployment and an increased need for qualified artisans in all disciplines to sustain industries and support economic growth in SA.
It is also important to incorporate and enhance career guidance for students early on to better inform their education journey and future prospects.
FW: How dire do you think the present state of basic education in South Africa is?
RI: While the basic education sector does have its challenges, these are not insurmountable. As mentioned earlier, strong public-private partnerships are key to creating shared value that can deliver maximum impact and reach the greatest number of people in SA, and across the continent. By engaging and working with like-minded partners in business, government, academia and the non-profit sector to leverage its expertise and blended resources, we can co-create solutions to not only address some of the challenges facing the basic education sector, but society as a whole.
FW: In your opinion, what radical interventions need to take place in order to secure a successful educational future in SA?
RI: One of the key challenges facing young people today is the need to ensure that their skillset meets the needs of the market, so as to improve their employability prospects.
Another key challenge is the need for access to quality education.
The education sector therefore needs to make sure that young people are receiving education that is both relevant, and of a high standard.
Lack of capacity at any type of institution impacts the quality of delivery. It is therefore important to collaborate and support our education institutions in the development and enhancement of their capacity in areas such as governance, financial management and administration.
FW: What is your overall outlook for the future of basic education?
RI: The African continent is the most youthful continent in the world, with almost half of the continent’s population below the age of 15 years. There is therefore a great focus on young people and their future, and so while there are a number of challenges to address, with the right input and collaboration the outlook for basic education is promising.
Dedicated focus in the basic education sector should include amongst others: a focus on improving the resources and infrastructure in township and rural schools; cultivating a culture of entrepreneurship; the provision of career counselling programmes to learners to better inform their education journey and future prospects.
A good basic education remains one of the key ways to break the cycle of underdevelopment and poverty in SA, and the continent.