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Alec Hogg’s Inbox: To have a well-educated workforce in future, we must start at Grade 1

Tony Marron’s ideas on education resonated with many members of the BizNews community – including Steuart Pennington, my friend from the KZN Midlands, the eternal optimist who created SA The Good News. Steuart’s email reads:

As I read Tony Marron’s good ideas regarding education, Minister Mthethwa’s claim that our Olympic squad was not representative of the demographics of the country resonated, my thoughts turned to our education system. We have approximately 30,000 schools in the country, 7,000 secondary and 23,000 primary. Having worked extensively in rural marginalised schools, I’d appreciate it if the Minister could answer the following questions i) how many of our schools offer sport at all? ii) how many have at least four codes of sporting facilities? iii) how many have sport coaches?’ I believe the answer to be +/- 7000 schools offer sport on a structured basis, against that background will our representivity and medal account ever really improve? My experience in working in marginalised schools is that the school day ends at 13h30, the taxis arrive and the school – teachers and learners – empties.

Which begs the question: If the future is education, as Tony Marron correctly states (and I absolutely agree with), then the Government’s international campaign to say that South Africa is open for business and will soon have a well-educated workforce must start at Grade 1; the 50% drop out rate between grade one and matric must be resolved; the pathetic numeracy and literacy results in grade 4 and grade 9 must be dramatically improved; the post provision norms (PPN) of allocating one teacher to 32.4 learners regardless of curriculum coverage must be removed; the 30% pass rate abandoned; Principals that deliver unacceptable results disciplined; and the power of SADTU curtailed. The effectiveness of the DoE should be measured as above.

Unless this is done the challenge facing business in the development of work-based education schemes will be almost insurmountable and developing a well-educated workforce difficult in the extreme.

If we want world-class athletes and a highly skilled workforce, Government must have a plan that starts when children enter school not when they leave school.

Tracy Anderson, on the other hand, feels that there is already much being done. She wrote:

With reference to Tony Marron’s comments, unfortunately he clearly looks very out of touch with the extensive learnership programs that are already happening through all the Seta’s. Also government has embarked on the YES program that looks at upskilling the youth of South Africa. There is already being so much done by business South Africa and government, so to read that comment is a tad disappointing.

On the “BEE revolt” suggestion, community member Barry Pringle provides some food for thought in his email:

I think a BEE revolt is a great idea and in future will vote for a party that recognizes the folly of this legislation, which basically is as wrong as the previous regime’s “job reservation” policy that kept certain jobs for whites only.

BEE has failed dismally, not only for being morally wrong, but simply there are not enough competent people around to enable businesses to comply with the legislation. Businesses, unlike governments, need to operate efficiently in order to survive and they are unable to do so with unqualified and hence incompetent employees.

Government needs to provide quality education, housing, transport and healthcare in order for all citizens to become “employable”. There are simply not enough “white” people around to satisfy the demands of the job market so the people for whom BEE was created would automatically be eligible to fill those positions, provided they were qualified to do so. The problem is not racial prejudice on behalf of the vast majority of employers, it’s lack of qualified personnel.

As a family business owner, I should have the right to choose who I want as a partner ( if indeed I want a partner at all) in my business irrespective of their colour.

I cannot afford to carry passengers and need each and every employee to contribute 100% to the success of my business. My customers demand a high level of service and I will lose them if I am unable to provide that. My business requires staff with not only a tertiary education, but also a particular personality type and numeracy skills. So it’s much more than employing someone who satisfies the BEE criteria. We provide our employees with incentives and opportunities to further their studies as well as on the job training by way of in house courses.

What is required of government is the introduction of a safe secure environment which encourages investment, provides a level playing field for all employers to compete on an equal footing without being subjected to excessive taxes and other punitive legislation for trying to provide jobs, services and contribute meaningfully to growing the economy.

As an aside, how about the government introducing an incentive scheme to encourage emigrants to return to SA bringing back their skills? Maybe offer to pay their relocation costs, provide low interest mortgages in return for say 5 years employment in essential services, government departments and SOE’s – with of course a market related remuneration package?

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