The educational ghost of apartheid lingers on
The legacy of apartheid has continued to haunt the progress of providing skills in South Africa, according to a new Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) report on 'Vocational Education and Training in Southern Africa'.
"Access to structured education and training is far greater for urban than rural populations. Too little of the new educational system reflects the needs and interests of the most disadvantaged members of South African society."
Education and training resources under the pre-1994 government were " biased towards furthering white progress, and apartheid required the wasteful multiplication of educational administration and institutions that were racially segmented," noted researchers Salim Akojee, Anthony Gewer and Simon McGrath in the chapter 'South Africa: Skills development as a tool for social and economic development'.
"The result has been a polarised and unbalanced educational end economic legacy, with which the new government has
been grappling for the past decade," the authors commented.
There has been long-standing complaints that the country's economy has tended towards underdevelopment of intermediate-level skills. The researchers noted a serious skills shortage in areas of the public sector, such as teaching and nursing. There are also shortages of skilled professionals and technicians, in the information and communications technology sector.
With regards to the private sector, the report noted there were concerns "about quality, and the need to shift from a pattern of employment with a heavy bias towards white males in senior posts".
There has been a radical shift towards black employment at these levels in the past 25 years. But the South African economy faces serious constraints in successfully expanding production for domestic and international markets, in areas such as manufacturing due to the weak skills base.
The problem in the formal economy is also
mirrored in the informal economy. South Africa is far weaker in technical and craft skills than the majority of other African countries, the researchers pointed out.
There is a lack of demand in an economy where employment was not growing fast enough was a major factor, but it had failed to bring urgency to developing vocational training.
The role that institutions of higher learning plays in community development and the provision of skills was being hampered, by a weak adult basic education and training sector.There is also a lack of communication between the departments of education and labour.
While the government has been addressing these problems by developing a National Qualifications Framework(NQF) designed to integrate education and training by a common set of qualifications. It was increasingly difficult for college graduates and learnership programmes to find placement.
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