Bayanda Mzoneli

About Bayanda Mzoneli

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

When the National Planning Commission (NPC) asked for public inputs while preparing its diagnostic report, I made a one paragraph submission to the effect that government should stop offering other fields of study other than Science and Accounting.

It might not be a smart idea but that is not a prerequisite for holding a view.

The reason I made that suggestion was because I suspected that as a country we might be having ambitions of industrializing and one day become a manufacturing hub of the continent and the rest of the world. If this is true, then we need a lot of Engineers to invent and manufacture the great stuff we are going to export. I went as far as thinking that if we fail to become a manufacturing hub, then Plan B will be to export the Engineers we have as we will have an oversupply of them, just as Cuba tends to export some of its doctors.

If you think it is not possible to suddenly stop offering all the other fields of study leaving only Health Sciences, Engineering and Commerce then you might want to think back to what Minister Sibusiso Bhengu did with Teacher Colleges in the Mandela Administration (if you are too young to recall, ask your uncle or aunt).

I have read both the diagnostic report and the National Development Plan (NDP) released by the NPC. I have concluded that they did not factor in my input in their report as both reports does not include my suggestion

However, both reports repeat what has been obvious since the Mandela Administration, there is shortage of particular sets of skills in South Africa. The NDP then goes on to suggest a solution;

South Africa needs engineering skills to deliver the massive infrastructure programme announced in the 2012 State of the Nation address. The country also needs enough doctors, nurses and health professionals in different occupational classes to deliver quality healthcare.” (NDP 2030, p297)

If you are waiting for the part that explains how this will be done, good luck.

Remember the appendix to ASGISA, called JIPSA (Joint Initiative for Priority Skills Acquisition)? I also don’t know what happened to that but I recall that Cde Gwede Mantashe, was part of the board that dealt with it. (This was before he became ANC SG).

It seems to me there is a belief out there that learners in Grade 9 (Std 7) will somehow, realise that there is a shortage of engineering skills in the country and then choose Maths and Science stream in Grade 10 (Std 8). I suspect that this is the strategy that has failed for the past many years. An incentive of offering bursaries has also not worked.

The reason no one chooses to study Mandarin in Grade 10 is because it is not offered in schools. So people choose from what is there already. Hence my view that schools and Universities should stop offering certain fields of study.

A few months ago, Scott Adams blogged about more or less similar concept.

You know most products come with product specifications printed on labels. Imagine if Universities did the same. Say Wits University collected and provided data on how many BSc Mechanical Engineering it has produced in the past 10 years. For each year, how many of those graduates are unemployed/employed? for those who are employed, in which fields are they employed, is it in the field they studied? What is the total income per annum for each batch of graduates grouped by years of experience? You get the drift.

Now if all Universities and FETs made this information available to Grade 9 learners and/or decision makers who decide what is offered in schools and Universities.

I am sure there are first year students at University who are guaranteed unemployment after graduation in 3 or 4 years time due to the Degree they are studying. The converse is true for other qualifications. Let me know if you meet an unemployed MB ChB Graduate, so I can slap him/her in the face.

If my half-cooked idea can be refined and implemented, I am sure you will have a country of citizens who are mostly self-sufficient in few years. This would significantly reduce a need to steal, thereby cutting back on the need for Police which has an effect on the entire justice system up to prisons. That is why there won’t be a need to train more lawyers, judges or correctional officers. The need for social workers will also be reduced and the need for all other professions.

I think we would be better off as a country complaining that we have an over-supply of engineers and doctors but a shortage of lawyers and social workers so we need to import those skills.

Assuming all the Grade 10 students in 2014 choose Science and Accounting streams, there will only be Science and Accounting Matriculants in 2016. This will mean all University first year students in 2017, ignoring repeaters, will be in Sciences and in Accounting. Four years later, in 2020, there will be graduates in Engineering, Health Sciences and Accounting. By 2022, there would be more than 95% employment for recently graduated.

In defence of the ANC government, I suspect the reason the NPC ignored my idea is because we are an ultra-democratic country. People have a right to choose, including choosing things that are not worth choosing such as choosing to vote for COPE. If government was to remove some fields of study in schools and universities, I am sure Professor Johann Maree’s wife would take the government to court.

The tragedy is that our inaction in this regard is tantamount to breeding unemployment.

We all know that all what I have said is not going to happen. So what is the point of this blog. Well, I’m glad you have asked.

You probably know someone who is a young graduate but have been unemployed for a couple of years, you might want to encourage them to consider taking up another undergraduate degree in the qualifications that are in demand. Yes, I know some graduates already have qualifications that are in demand but are unemployed due to lack of experience (I have an answer for that but will blog about it some other time.)

You might also know your younger sister/brother who is currently at University, studying a degree that leads to unemployment (meaning not in demand), you may want to refer them to this blog.

You might also have a niece or nephew who is still at high school or primary school, you may want to start telling them that South Africa won a bid to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) so they need to focus in the direction that will help them be part of that.

You could know someone who works at a University somewhere and may want to suggest they read this blog so they can start collating the data I referred to earlier as a University in order to help people make informed decisions.

You might know someone who works in government or parliament who is a decision maker, you may want to refer them to this blog so they can see the half-cooked idea and refine it to a better well cooked idea that works to help end unemployment.

Alternatively, you can ignore this as a stupid idea that it is. Continue to rely on prayer and faith to solve unemployment problems of the country. Good luck!

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