Bayanda Mzoneli

About Bayanda Mzoneli

Bayanda Mzoneli is a public servant. He writes in his personal capacity.

It is a given that we all different. Something that happens to one person will not always happen to another person. Even if it happens to another person, there is no guarantee that it will happen to the third person, and so on. Having said that, it does not mean we should not try out things where we have observed a pattern and there are not many options to consider anyway.

When our mother passed away in 2004, it meant my 3 siblings and I no longer had parents. As the eldest, I had to take care of them, with the youngest, aged 12 at the time. The youngest also happens to be subject of this experiment. His name is Sandile Nyawo.

As I looked at his Grade 11 results in 2009, I realized that if he does not improve, he might not have very good results in Grade 12. And by good results, I mean the type that make admission officers at University to ignore whether you applied or not when they consider accepting you for any qualification. This is despite the fact that I had sent him to be a boarder at Vukuzakhe High School in Umlazi, Durban. Vukuzakhe was one of the reputable boarding schools in KwaZulu Natal on Matric results.

I recalled that part of what had helped me get relatively good results in Matric, despite being suspended from boarding school for 8 months, during my Matric year, was that I attended two weeks of winter school at the University of Zululand. I was aware that the University of Durban Westville, now UKZN, had a similar programme for Matriculants. While I researched around on which one was I going to enroll him in during his Matric year in 2010, he told me that he is one of the learners selected to participate in a programme of Saturday classes ran by Engen in conjunction with University of Kwazulu Natal (Howard College).

Our regular conversations towards the end of 2010, as matric exams approached, did not give me comfort. It seemed to me, and partially with his admission, he was struggling with Physical Science. Any intervention at that time would have been late and I am not sure if I would have afforded it.

Learners in boarding school are generally not allowed to leave the residences without permission. Plus under no conditions are visitors allowed to sleep over. But this does not generally stop learners to break the rules from time to time by leaving without permission and when this happens, they do not usually use the designated entry and exit points.

In the light of these restrictions, I jumped the fence into the boys residences in order to assist Sandile with Physical Science and Mathematics. I think I illegally spent two weekend nights at the dormitory. This was possible as most learners had left, only Matric learners were left, so there was enough space for all of us. Obviously I could have taken him home for a weekend. But that would have removed him from his classmates and uninterrupted focus on studying and studying only. Hence I figured I should go to where he and his classmates were.

Prior to this incident I had occasionally visited him and some of his classmates on weekends, bringing with me students from Mantech (MUT) who were bright in Mathematics and Science.

Needless to say, he passed his Matric. He got a disappointing 23% in Physical Science and a not so bad 51% in Mathematics. Clearly, I am not as good a tutor as I imagined myself to be and Physical Science of 1997, when I did my Matric, was not exactly the same as that of 2010. He passed above 60% on the rest of his subjects. But I did not care about the rest of the results because assisting students to be admitted at University as a SASCO member had taught me that other subjects do not matter, except Maths, Science and English. That is why I derived discomfort from his Grade 11 results and the subsequent conversations we had in preparation for Grade 12 exams.

Only then does my experiment start. Since around 2000, I have held an opinion that Information Technology, as a field of study, is the future. I still think so. My belief in this leads me into thinking that there are too many opportunities in the industry for someone who is qualified in this field to be employed. Before, you lynch me, note that the IT field has very many qualifications with varying demand for employees on each of the qualification types.

Sandile and I decided that he should study IT. I had spoken to a few friends in the IT industry, some of whom are my former classmates, who, unlike me finished their IT Diploma and went on to be employed in the IT industry. One of them told me, after I asked her a few direct questions, that as a manager she would employ someone with an A+ and N+ certificate at a pay of about R8000 a month. She also pointed out that as far as she is concerned there is a demand for people with these certificates.

One of the advantages of the IT industry is that, in theory, it is possible to do a certificate or a couple of certificates within 3-6 months. After you get the certificates, it is possible to get a job at an entry level salary of R6000 or more, depending on the certificate you did. However, studying plus exams of each of those international certificates costs about R15 000 and can go up to around R40 000 for some of the more advance programming certificates.

Just like driving schools, in some of the certificates, the institution you go to is not that important. After attending and studying the relevant material, you can write the exam at any other accredited institution as many times as you can fail as long as you can afford the exam fee which costs about R1800 for each exam. This is separate from tuition on any institution you choose.

Sandile then registered at IT Intellect in Durban in 2011. He enrolled to study A+ and N+. I was banking on that, if all else failed, my former classmate who said she can employ a person with these certificates will have to employ him if he does not get a job somewhere else.

The tutition amounted to about R8000. He passed each of the two A+ exams, one on his first attempt and the other on his second attempt at R1400 per each attempt (this is not included in the tuition). He passed the one N+ exam on the second attempt at R2100 per attempt. The certificates you get after the exams are internationally recognized. However, they are valid for a few years and you need to write the exams again a few years later to keep up with technology changes.

Although A+ classes were one week and N+ classes were two weeks. He only passed and got both the certificates in early 2012, a year after starting with the courses.

A+ is about computer repairs and installations while N+ is more about networking. Since it is useful to have a computer while studying these courses, I bought him a computer when he started the courses. But I bought it in pieces. He had to assemble and install it himself.

He then stayed at home, unemployed. I asked my friend who had assured me of the employability of a person with these certificates to employ Sandile as per her promise. To this day, she is still entangled in the red tape at the organisation she works for. I wish her success in navigating it.

While Sandile was unemployed he ran a family business of web design. He can register a domain, setup emails, design and publish a website within 4 weeks. He learned the basics from his brother and the rest is self-taught. The next time you need a website, you might want to get in touch with him. To contact him for that or to see some of his work you can go to www.tokitech.com

Fortunately, Sandile kept applying for jobs and eventually got one at a company called Madamu in May 2013. For context, it seems Madamu is one of the small IT companies that Gijima often subcontract to for some of its technical support work. For the record, his employment would be to provide technical support to the private sector, not government. So I had nothing to do with his employment there.

I was vehemently opposed to the ridiculous employment arrangement that Madamu offered him. They said they will pay him R6000 plus his petrol expenses on a 12 month contract, but he must bring his own car. I do not know from where is a 20 year old black man supposed to get a car on a R7000 salary in a 12 month contract. This being his first job he felt very strongly that he should take the opportunity.

After a long and painful conversation, we eventually reached a settlement. In exchange for me cutting all financial support to him until he has paid back all what he would owe me, I should extend my overdraft by R45 000 for him to buy a car at an auction. He would then pay me R2000 per month. If his contract is not renewed at the end, he would sell the car and settle the remainder of what I owe the bank on his behalf. However, we specified that the withdrawal of my financial support excludes tuition for studying any qualification in the College of Science and Technology at Unisa. I will still pay for that as long as he was admitted.

I maintained, and still stand by it, that the ridiculous employment by Madamu resulted in the net effect of him paying the company. He would make more money unemployed than working at Madamu. The zero he would get for sitting at home is greater than the negative that accumulates in his name while working for Madamu.

Be that as it may, we went ahead with the arrangement and he bought a Citi golf at an auction somewhere in Durban. His problems did not end, he had to find a place to stay, get furniture for it, maintain a car with high mileage and survive delayed payments from the employer for his petrol expenses. Since we had agreed on cutting financial support, I could not help him with all this in anyway except give him a payment holiday for the difficult months, which was almost all months except two.

Fortunately for him, a vacancy occurred in the Empangeni area and he was offered a promotion to it in November 2013. He would be paid an extra R1000 plus he will be staying at home, meaning he won’t be paying any rent. He will also be staying with our other two siblings. However, in true ridiculous Madamu style, the Empangeni post would be a 3 month contract #smh

He took the offer and relocated from Durban to Empangeni.

Last month, January 2014, he got an offer from Gijima to fill a position in Umtata. A permanent position with benefits. He has taken the offer and today, 10 February 2014, was his first day there. Even though Gijima has not given him a car, he is pre-paid for his petrol expenses and the vehicle maintenance expenses will be shared between him and the company. He tells me Gijima invests in their employees by paying for further certifications.

At the ANCYL 24th National Congress, I was the in the Communication and Battle of Ideas commission. One of the resolutions was that government should cut back at giving all IT contracts to Gijima (see Congress Resolutions, clause (f) on page  18). I could sense the frustration of the Youth League members as the matter was discussed. I also harboured discomfort about the perceived over-empowerment of one company over others. However, the comparison of Madamu and Gijima as employees have put my moral judgement to the test. Gijima seems to be a far better employer than Madamu and I am not sure if it would have grown the capacity to do without the perceived over-empowerment by government.

The position at Gijima also comes with a R1500 increase from his last salary at Madamu. In case you have lost count, that brings his salary to R9500 per month. Hopefully, he is going to honour his payments to me so I can pay the bank, which is charging me 16% interest which I have not charged him.

The experiment here was to test whether the expensive, short and internationally recognised IT certificates lead to decent employment. The result is that my 21 year-old brother is permanently employed at R9500 per month with Matric and two IT certificates. This is not bad for a start. That is the preliminary result of my employment experiment.

Considering that he is likely to do more IT certificates paid for by the company while accumulating work experience, it is likely that when he turns 25, he would be earning far better than what his older brother earned when he was 25. If, by luck, my former classmate manages to navigate the red tape of her organisation successfully, then she will employ him permanently at about R13,000 per month after tax with full benefits.

I worry though that Sandile has neglected his studies at Unisa. He had enrolled for a BSc in Computer Engineering in 2012. His results are pathetic, to say the least. My untested view is that the lack of a formal degree tends to limit the possibility of upward mobility, particularly to management levels. It seems the IT certificates can get you to be a well respected and perhaps highly paid technician or engineer but you will still not be in management. I hope, at some point, he will realise the importance of a degree to focus on it. But I could be wrong, this view might be outdated, things are changing out there. His appetite for risk has gotten him somewhere already, I doubt that had he followed my advice not to take the Madamu job, he would be where he is.

This is my second experiment and I am glad it is proving to be a success. My first experiment was around 2005. For R15,000 I bought study material for a certificate that required 5 exams at the time. The certificate was called MCPD (Microsoft Certified Professional Developer). It has since been revised and comes in different acronyms now such as MCITP. It was a programming certificate in C#. I then invited about 8 friends, gave them access to computers and asked them to join me in a journey to certification. On the first day, they all arrived. By the 10th day none of them arrived. I continued alone, on my own. Unfortunately, I never got the courage to write the exams. At the time, my hypothesis was that we were going to write the exams, get certified and have starting salaries of about R10,000 per month. I won’t reveal the names of these friends. But we are still friends up to this day and I know some of them will recall this incidence. The experiment failed at the time.

I have written elsewhere about my failure to understand some of the government’s plans of jobs if they still offer certain subjects at Grade 10, which are known to lead to certain faculties at University, which are known to lead to unemployed graduates. By allowing learners to choose those subjects in Grade 10, we are sowing seeds of unemployment that we will reap 7 years later when those Grade 10 students graduate at University. Only then do we tell them that their skills are not needed by the economy. After black parents have spent a fortune on their education.

My long held view is that those subjects should be removed from Grade 10 so that no one will choose them. By extension, three years later, Universities will have to shutdown the faculties that produce unemployed graduates after taking the last intake of students to courses that lead to unemployment. I know this is somewhat extreme and perhaps ridiculous, but if you have met an unemployed graduate and have a semblance of empathy, you will understand this better. If you have met graduates who are petrol attendants and waitresses, you will understand how the shattered promise of education affects them.

Black people do not deserve this. My heart bleeds for the black children who are enrolled in qualifications that are known to not be needed by the economy. Just this month, long queues of students at Universities have formed, students trying to get space to register for the qualifications that will lead them to unemployment. Parents will spend their lifetime savings or enter into long term loans to pay for education of their children with the hope that there will be a return. Even the state will pour out millions to NSFAS to fund students in courses that will lead to unemployment. Although I do not have scientific evidence to substantiate all this but any black person who lives in South Africa probably knows about it, including the decision makers. I am not sure what it will eventually take to change the situation.

As I said in the opening paragraph, what happened to Sandile might not happen to everyone else. But please, if you can read this, then you are literate enough to advise your relatives or friends not to choose certain subjects in Grade 10. You are also literate enough to advise them to work harder at Matric in order to be admitted to the right qualifications at University.

NB: While I would recommend IT certificates to anyone who would like to try them, I will not take responsibility for people who take advice from a person who spent 7 years at a Technikon and still dropped out without a Diploma. Also if you work for or know the Madamu shareholders, note that stats show that this blog is read by too few people to affect the reputation of any company either positively or negatively.

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