The waste of talent in South Africa

The waste of talent in South Africa

In 2007 in South Africa, 2.8 million 18–24-year-olds (out of a total population of 48 million) were classifi ed as being “not in education, employment or training” (or, NEET). Almost 1 million pupils needed multiple second-chance opportunities to complete school, while 800,000 who had obtained a final school leaving certificate required further education and training, and 1 million sought various employment, training and youth service opportunities. And the situation is not improving, since the latest survey suggests that the NEET figure now stands at 3.5 million!

This situation not only refl ects a critical waste of talent but the possibility of serious social disruption. Indeed a high proportion of young people were involved in the service delivery protests that hit the country in 2010.

Lack of educational opportunities
Almost 1 million students leave school on completing grade 10 rather than grade 12. They represent an enormous waste of educational resources and also seem to be those most vulnerable to unemployment.They are clearly in need of a wide variety of “second chance” school opportunities, which should defi nitely include expansion of the further, or post-school education sector.

Arguably even more alarming is the plight of the 750 000 students who complete grade 12 but are then unable to enhance their education any further. In terms of educational efficiency, they represent both a shocking “wastage of educational investment” and a missed opportunity, given that the South African Labour and Development Research Unit noted a marked increase in the rate of return on any form of post-school investment.

Exploring possible solutions
South Africa, like most other sub-Saharan African countries, has no signifi cant post-school college sector linked to training schemes and employment opportunities. Although this kind of sector would potentially cater for “post-secondary” students, the present public higher education system (with some 800,000 enrolments) would have to be doubled in size to accommodate them. Such a sector could not therefore serve as a college system for university access, as the universities would not have the physical and human resources to cope with the influx.

The government will also have to seriously consider the development of a post-school private sector, because – here as elsewhere in Africa – the state simply lacks the resources for an exclusively public system which meets the entire demand.

Neither, finally, should one overlook the 1 million young people who require an extensive range of opportunities including short-term training, internships, public works programmes and youth service. Here too the state will have to devise a coordinated response on the part of all government departments involved.

To view the full IIEP Newsletter from which this article is extracted, click here.

To view CHET's most recent publication on the post-school youth crisis in South Africa, click here.