Tackling youth unemployment

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Ahead of the Youth Day celebrations, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has reflected on various measures implemented by government to create jobs in the education sector for young people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As part of a battery of measures to draw young people into the economy, we have, through the Education Employment Initiative (BEEI), employed 320 000 unemployed youth as education and general education assistants,” the Minister said on Tuesday.

This initiative was implemented to alleviate joblessness as part of the Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme from December 2020 to April 2021.

“These young people were placed in public schools across the country to assist teachers in the classroom as they fought against the new challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. The initiative used the direct public investment to create employment opportunities and provide support to workers negatively impacted by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Minister said.

The BEEI was funded to the tune of R7 billion, of which the most considerable portion was transferred to provinces as part of an equitable share.

“A large slice of this, just over R4 billion, was deployed to create job opportunities for unemployed youth in the basic education sector.  Just one percent was allocated towards training, and another one percent of the public employment investment was paid to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) for each youth employed in the Education Employment Initiative. 

“Some R2.4 billion was used to save exiting posts in the government, subsidised independent schools and school governing bodies' funded positions in public schools,” Motshekga said.

The Minister said the success of Phase 1 of the education employment initiative has ignited talks of phase two.

Talks are at an advanced stage with Treasury in this regard. 

“As a sector, we are also supporting the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention that creates new pathways into employment for our young people. It ensures that the youth gain the right skills, start their own businesses, and get into good jobs,” the Minister said.

Other measures to increase youth employment opportunities include the Expanded Public Works Programme, Community Works Programme, and the Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator.

The Minister made these remarks at the Virtual Teacher Appreciation and Support Programme Conversation with key stakeholders.

Third wave of COVID-19

With the country having technically entered the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Minister assured teachers, learners as well as the school community that their health remains of paramount importance and will not be compromised as they are expected to return to daily attendance next month.

“We continue to monitor the trajectory of the pandemic and make all necessary regulations and directions in line with the COVID-19 Risk-Adjusted Differentiated Strategy. I realise that there is anxiety about sending all primary school children back to school at once. There is no need to panic. Our decision making is supported by empirical evidence,” the Minister said.

The Department of Basic Education has gazetted the regulations for the return of all learners in primary schools (Grades R to 7) to the daily attendance and traditional timetabling model from July 26 2021.

Similarly, schools for learners with special education needs (Grades R to 12) are also expected to return to the daily attendance and traditional timetabling model from July 26 2021.

“Research shows that primary school learners benefit more from continuous and unbroken contact time with their teachers. However, the health and safety of learners, teachers and school community remains of paramount importance and will not be compromised,” the Minister said.

Motshekga confirmed that the next phase of the vaccine rollout is for teachers and education staff of all levels. 

“I am happy to reaffirm the President's message that the next frontier in a battle against COVID-19 is the rollout of vaccination. I am confident in the ability of our government to fulfil the ambitious target of vaccinating 67 percent of our population,” she said.

The Minister said non-pharmaceutical measures remain the best arsenal against the virus.

“These measures include social distancing, wearing cloth masks to cover one's nose, mouth and chin, washing hands with soap, and or 70% alcohol-based sanitiser for 20 seconds. I cannot stress enough the imperative to avoid birthday parties, weddings and funerals unless it is totally unavoidable,” she said.

Motshekga acknowledged the role played by teachers in shaping society, yet they are often not recognised or respected.

“The truth is that teachers are indispensable in our education system. In fact, committed teachers are critical in our efforts to steer our country back into the inclusive economic growth path after years of policy uncertainty, corruption and state capture.

“Once again, my heartfelt appreciation to our teachers and all the education assistants, our unsung heroes and heroines, ensured that the Class of 2020 completed their academic year under highly challenging circumstances,” the Minister said. –SAnews.gov.za