Education: Key to progress

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

By Deputy Minister of Communication Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams

At the beginning of this year, President Jacob Zuma boldly declared 2015 as the Year of the Freedom Charter and Unity in Action. He called on all sectors of society to embrace the Freedom Charter; this year marks the 60th anniversary of the historic document, which was penned in Kliptown, Soweto, in 1955.

As we celebrate Youth Month, it is worthwhile to remember the calls espoused in the Freedom Charter - in particular that young people deserve better educational and economic opportunities. Indeed, we should ensure that the aspirations of our youth to have access to opportunities, better education and freedom of choice, as demanded in the Freedom Charter.  

We should also take forward the charters vision that South Africa belongs to all who live it. This vision is now a reality; our democracy stands firm and is safeguarded by the Constitution. 

However, democracy without progress rings hollow. Therefore it is incumbent on all of us to push for our country’s development.

Government, entrepreneurs, youth leaders and youth organisations need to work together and implement policies that will build the South Africa we want. Those policies and recommendations are spelt out in the National Development Plan, our blueprint for a society where all South Africans will flourish.

It stresses that the country’s youth can be the catalyst for social change and economic emancipation.

We firmly believe that the youth of today must be at the forefront of societal conversations about our socio-economic challenges. Our young leaders will play a key role in transforming society in the third decade of freedom.

The role of strong, skills-oriented education cannot be emphasised enough. We have made great strides in increasing student numbers in schools, universities and colleges over the past 21 years.

Opportunities to access higher education that were denied to many young people are now available to them.

The Department of Higher Education is implementing a number of programmes to improve the quality of post-school education. These include expanding the foundation phase to equip underprepared students, improving accessibility for students and staff with disabilities, investing in university infrastructure and increasing the number of teachers.

Through the National Skills Fund, the department is making funds available to students in the critical fields that are needed to grow the economy. Last year it gazetted and published 100 national scarce skills in our economy and in other sectors. It is also encouraging pupils in schools to choose skills that are in short supply, like artisanship.

We have targeted 19 000 artisans to be produced annually, set to increase to 30 000 by 2030, in line with the National Development Plan and National Skills Development Strategy.   

Community Education and Training Colleges offer a second chance to people who did not finish their schooling. They represent a third tier of institutions alongside universities and technical vocational education and training colleges. These colleges prepare students for the labour market or for self-employment. It is without a doubt that they will be central to moving the country forward.

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