Graduates question the value of their degrees amidst high unemployment rate among graduates. Chulekazi Charlie explores their frustration.
In February this year, unemployed graduates from several Eastern Cape universities took part in a #HireAGraduate campaign, in an effort to draw the attention of government and private sectors to the sad reality of unemployed graduates. The disgruntled youth made it clear that they are fed up with the high unemployment rate of graduates.
Graduates from universities and TVET institutions alike, gathered to make their voices heard about the lack of job opportunities that are available to them, despite their qualifications. Siphamandla Khasag, the chairperson of the #HireAGraduate campaign, speaking to Jacaranda FM, said the graduates’ main motive is to bring back the dignity of education. High school pupils are no longer motivated to pursue tertiary education, he said, due to the astounding number of unemployed graduates.
The echoing statement of the whole campaign was “there is great frustration and discouragement regarding the value of having a degree when it doesn’t result in economic upliftment.”
The protesting graduates do not want preferential treatment from the government, but rather, to raise awareness about the unemployment issues, and encourage discussions around the severity of this matter in our country.
The #HireAGraduate campaign gained huge traction on Twitter in South Africa. Kagiso Trust’s Head of Human Resources, Isabella Liba, supports the campaign’s sentiments, “I honestly understand their frustration. I was excited in 1998 when the Skills Development Act (the Act)was approved, I thought it would eliminate and address the high rate of unemployed graduates. Sadly it did not… mainly because the said law is not imposing on the employers to do so but merely encouraging.”
The Act, as outlined is Section 2, encourages employers to provide opportunities for new entrants to the labour market to gain work experience; and to employ persons who find it difficult to be employed. 20 years down the line employers are still being encouraged to do so. The reason that most employers do adhere to this is because there is no penalty for employers who choose not to afford employment opportunities to new entrants.
“I am of the view that the Act needs to be amended so as to include consequences for employers who do not employ graduates, similarly to what we have with businesses who do not pay tax.” Liba continued, “In the meantime, I am of the view that discussions around the severity of this matter must be encouraged, not only by students, but our tripartite; government, business and labour must be part of these discussions. To all employers who are hiring graduates, I commend you. Continue to make a difference in our country.’’