Kay-Dee Mashile is an AMI Media Competition shortlisted contributor from South Africa. Her piece From job-seekers to job-creators: we are the ones we've been waiting for! is her interpretation of "Why are we the ones we've been waiting for?"
South African youth have been battling against the education system for the past five decades. With the struggle against Bantu Education in 1976 to #FeesMustFall in 2015 (the demand for free tertiary education), there seems to be no rest for the typical South African student.
At the end of 2016, the government committed to investigating the feasibility of free tertiary education in South Africa. Students submitted suggestions of how this could be achieved, with suggestions of annual decreases in tuition fees until higher education is free of charge to redirecting funds budgeted for other state functions to the higher education sector. Students are adamant that free education is not only feasible, it is probable.
We have to ask ourselves, though, with the country’s economy in crisis (and this has only gotten worse with the Covid-19 pandemic), is free tertiary education worth it if these graduates can’t use their degrees anywhere outside the borders of SA? Also, with over 50% of young people being unemployed in South Africa, is free tertiary education really more pressing than job creation? The reality is: getting a degree no longer guarantees you a job. Instead, companies want experience and practical competence over theoretical knowledge.
Instead of free education, why don’t young people opt for government funded apprenticeships and internships to be included in the university curriculum to ensure that graduates have both knowledge and experience? This can help graduates to venture into private practice and become job creators, should they not be able to find work.
A fellow University student once said, “Should our careers not work out, let’s start a business. I know someone in Accounting, someone in PR and someone in IT…”, this the kind of mind-set that our education system should be encouraging.
Education may be the key to success, but it’s only as useful as the doors it opens. So, instead of educating ourselves on writing a great CV, we should look up the best format for a business proposal. With each right comes a responsibility, and it remains the graduate’s responsibility to ensure that someone else graduates after him or her. This means that we can't burn down the library when push comes to shove. It also means that we need to become active role players in our economy so that more funds are available for other youths to be educated.
I write this as an entrepreneur, I know that it's very tough! I'm also not ignorant to the fact that not everyone is built to run a business. But I believe that we all have networks that can collaborate on job-creating ideas that can employ us and other young people. We cannot sit and wait for the government, we can only hold them accountable and make better voting choices. But in essence, educated youths have the responsibility to ensure they create opportunities that will either pass down the key or leave the doors open for others to succeed.
Choose to become a job-creator and not a job-seeker. Vuk’uzenzele (get up and do it for yourself), we are the ones we've been waiting for!