There is a flicker of hope after this week’s stampedes caused by an influx of prospective students at Capricorn and Motheo TVET colleges. This could be signalling a new awareness that students are beginning to have faith in the colleges as important education centres.
On Thursday, several students were hurt when sstudents pushed throught the gates at Capricorn TVET College while their counterparts in the Free State stormed the gates of the Motheo TVET College during registration.
This took many by surprise as it was anticipated these scenes to unfold at university campuses. University management have also took precautionary measures by initially barring students from applying at campuses in person.
According to Christopher Brink, president of the International Association of Colleges in Southern Africa (IACSA), even though it is too early to read into these incidents, this should be a welcome development. He said TVET Colleges have a good curriculum that could go a long way in helping the country deal with the current youth unemployment as well as carry out vital development projects the country needs.
“However, the problem is our education system is still designed in such a way it promotes the career pathing that university is the only place to go after completing matric,” said Brink. He said the number of young graduates who constitute a big chunk of the jobless is enough evidence that universities are not the be-all and end all.
He said the university curriculum does not teach practical skills that lead to job creation but is geared to producing academics who must find employment elsewhere upon graduation. Unfortunately the quality of education at TVET colleges has been downplayed, Brink said, to an extent that most learners only enrol at these colleges as second choice or even third choice. He said it would be good if we saw more learners going to the colleges as their first choice as this would not only would create a pool of young artisans but would also help promote the stature and integrity of the colleges.
Last month, Hlengiwe Mkhize, Minister of the Department of Higher Education and Eraining (DHET), told Inside Education that TVET colleges form a critical component of their post-schooling policy. She said they re-positioned them as specialised skills production hubs to specifically address the high youth unemployment rate.
Mkhize said they would follow a model used by Nordic countries, Germany and Switzerland which integrated learning in a manner that combines both theoretical concepts and work experience.
DHET has set itself a target of producing 30,000 artisans a year as prescribed by the National Development Plan.