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Sunday, June 20, 2021

School did not prepare us for the future

Matthew Botsime

I started formal schooling in 1994 and matriculated in 2005.

During my schooling career we were taught and told that if we worked hard, passed and went to universities were will have better and brighter future.

This is exactly what we did. We worked hard and some of us managed to get to institutions of higher learning. We worked hard despite adversities we encountered in our journeys to attain diplomas and degrees.

At these institutions of higher learning, we were only prepared for the jobs what we were going to do or aspired to do in our future.

The main focus seemed to be acquiring this knowledge and transferring it to a piece of paper at the end of the semester or year.

Three or four years later we leave with our degrees without solutions for real life problems or challenges.

The main focus post-graduation is employment.

At no point were we encouraged to think beyond our qualifications. We were not taught to create our own jobs or opportunities, nor were we encouraged to establish our own companies.

In primary and high schools, children have Economic and Management Sciences as a compulsory module. They are taught about the importance entrepreneurship and theories behind creating business plans. However, the knowledge acquired is not adequate or useful; it cannot be retrieved at a later stage in life.

For the past years, I have seen how the #hireagraduate trend has grown drastically. Graduates are standing on the streets with placards begging for jobs. I really think schooling and higher education in this sense has truly failed us. It had indeed produced graduates for graduates. It only gives us information but not the dexterity we need to invent our own things.

During my schooling career we were taught and told that if we work hard and pass we will have better and brighter future and it was guaranteed that we will become successful individuals. This was further exacerbated Dr Choice Makgethe, the former Student Director of the University of Free State, to our school. She spoke under the theme: Preparing you for the future. The main intention of her speech was motivate and encourage us to get into university and get into postgraduate studies. “Education is the only way out,” she said and this drove me to only focus on my studies in Matric.

I could see myself being in a university and graduating in record time. This would be followed by buying an expensive house in the suburb and driving luxurious cars. This was my understanding of success.

I started my University career in 2006 at University of the Free State. I remember the very first time I held my student card in my hands. I simply could not believe I had made it. Coming from whence I came, faced with poverty and difficulties at home, it was not in my cards to make it, yet there I was. But I was completely unprepared for what was to come.

My first years did not go very well. I could not afford my fees and became academically excluded. A year later, I was forced to change universities. I left UFS to attend Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) in Port Elizabeth.

I completed my degree in 2009. In my final year I was very certain that I am going to be employable with my degree. I could knock on any door and my degree will speak on my behalf. I applied for various post in both public and private sectors, I was very confident because most of the jobs I applied for I the met requirements.

I did not receive any response nor acknowledgements from any of the jobs for which I applied.

This is when it suddenly hit me. Universities prepared me to be an employee. I could not think beyond my degree. I did not even think of using the skills that I acquired to create a job for myself. I was more focused on applying for jobs.

Over the past few years, I have seen a trend of graduates standing at street corners, with placards begging for jobs.

This is why I believe the current education system has failed us and continues to fail us.

It only gives us information but not the dexterity we need to invent, create or produce our own good and services. It really saddens me to this day that we still believe that education is tantamount to success.

Every year the numbers of students registering in the institution of higher learning increases. This is quickly followed by the number of unemployed graduates.

It should become mandatory that institutions of higher learning have programmes in various faculties that will equip students with skills and knowledge to create their own jobs in case they do not find employment.

For instance, if a student is studying fine arts they should have the all the skills and knowledge to establish and run a gallery. The programme should be aligned to what the student is studying.

It is precisely for this reason that I intend to establish an academy for students with barriers to entrepreneurship and lack of access to information.

In my seven years of teaching, I have realised how the education system marginalises the masses and also fails to prepare children for the future.

The objective of my academy will be to equip my students with the skills and knowledge that will enable them to be self-reliant. They should depend on themselves and create their own businesses rather than seeking employment.

The core module for each student will be entrepreneurships. Students will be equipped with knowledge and skills to be innovative and start up their own businesses.

Matthew Botsime is an educationist and a community developer.


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  1. Our education system focuses more on theory whereas not all of us are given in that department, most of our youth can not apply what they have learnt at various institutions when they go out there, it clearly shows that there must be a Balance somewhere……..we need to be innovative and come up with new things that can make our own people to become their own bosses. (My own point of view)

  2. I agree with most of the points raised however I also feel like some degrees by virtue of that degree simply being a Bachelor of Arts in Politics or a General Bachelor of Commerce do not equip the graduates of these degrees for the real world because, the reality is that okay you studied politics now where are you going to work? And only then does it hint the individual that the job market in South Africa has very little space for creative degrees rather the job market looks at the needs of the country so if one is studying Medicine. Accounting and Teaching they are most likely to get a job because the doctor-to-patient ratio is around 1:25000 so we need more doctors, classes are getting bigger and this compromises quality education because the poor teacher has to meet the needs of approximately 60 other individuals, I would rather suggest that matric students are told about the frame work of South Africa’s job market either choose a safe degree or choose a creative degree but know that after graduation you are on your own. Another example of the distinction between creative degrees and safe degrees, a lot of the time we hear about engineering bursaries, medicine bursaries, accounting bursaries but very little we hear about bursaries for fine arts, dramatic arts which gives you an idea of what South Africa’s job market wants to do, it wants to address the needs first.


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