The young people of South Africa have been fighting education systems for the better part of the past four decades. With the struggle against Bantu Education in 1976, to #FeesMustFall in 2015 and the recent demands for free education, there seems to be no rest for the typical South African student. At the end of the 2016 academic year, the government responded with a commitment to have a commission set up to investigate the feasibility of free tertiary education in South Africa. Students submitted suggestions of how this could possibly be achieved. Possible solutions ranged from suggestions of annual decreases in tuition fees until such a time that higher education is free of charge, to suggestions of a redirection of funds budgeted for other state functions. Students are adamant that free education is not only feasible, it is probable.
However, with the recent elephant fights in our government, it is inevitable that some grass has been trampled on. With the Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, openly speaking out of the party saying that he is not begging for a position at the expense of serving South Africa, there may be hope that the plea of the students will be heard. Yet, with the country’s current economic state, do students still want free education if it means that they may not be able to use it anywhere outside the boarders of South Africa? Moreover, with 51.54 percent of young people being unemployed, is free education more pressing that job creation? It is important to note that obtaining a degree no longer guarantees one’s employability. Instead, companies are looking for experience and practical knowledge of the work 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 for each course to ensure that graduates have both knowledge and experience in the work they will be required to do? Moreover, this will aid graduates to venture into private practice and become job creators should they not be able to find work. A university student once said, “Should our careers not work out, let’s start a business. I know someone in Accounting, I know someone in PR, I know someone in IT…” these are the kinds of mind-sets that university discourages us from having.
Although education is said to be the key to success, it is only as important as the doors it opens for each individual. So, instead of educating ourselves on the latest format of a CV, we should look into educating each other on the latest format of 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. The educated young people of South Africa have the responsibility to ensure that they create opportunities that will either pass down the key or leave the doors open for others to also succeed. Choose to become a job-creator and not a job-seeker. Vuk’uzenzele!