October 1, 2004

Education minister: Higher education institutional systems to be restructured

Education Minister Naledi Pandor says although government has created employment for 1.6 million people in the past ten years, there are still not enough jobs to cope with the number of persons coming on to the labour market. She explained that every year about 15 percent of school-leavers entered higher education, 10 percent entered into learnerships, and the outstanding percentage remained unemployed. Ms Pandor added that there was a mismatch between study fields pursued by the majority of graduates and available job opportunities as dictated by the country's economic needs. "At the same time there is also a mismatch between the training that is available to school leavers who do not move into higher education and the demand for skills in the economy." she said. As a result the education department aimed to eliminate the apartheid higher education institutional systems through mergers that would meet the demand for intermediate and high skills and consequently reduce graduate unemployment. The department has also structured the higher education national plan which will provide for mergers, incorporations and the establishment of adequate institutions.
Although access to higher education for women and for Africans has improved significantly, financial exclusion remains the biggest challenge for poor students. "Resources of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) are limited and students can only access funds once they are registered at an institution, and the poor usually do not even have the minimum of funds required to register," said the minister. A new funding framework has been established and it aims for education institutions to monitor their funds, to redistribute resources from universities to technikons and to ensure that future research funding is based on research outcomes. The minister said there had to be redistribution of resources in favour of further education in order for learning to contribute to economic and social growth.
Ms Pandor also raised concern about racial and gender segregation in higher education societies and regards that as failure of institution to assume a leading and exemplary role in building a new citizenry in relation to the bill of rights and the dignity of all human beings. "What kind of contribution does higher education intend to make to ensure that we do not produce young men and women who will recreate group areas, pass laws and other evils that we have shed?" she asked. (Business Day, Johannesburg)

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