Pretoria - The number of black students attending university needs to rise for South Africa's economic development to improve, statistician general Pali Lehohla said on Wednesday.
A mere 3.2 percent of blacks aged between 18 and 29 attended university in 2013, he told reporters in Pretoria at the release of Statistics SA's 2013 General Household Survey.
White attendance in the same demographic was 18.7 percent, 9.2 percent for Indians and Asians, and 3.1 percent for coloureds.
“You would then have to argue that perhaps a proportion of blacks similar to that of whites is what's necessary... It might put this country on a different path into terms of demography and economic development,” he said.
“At the moment the proportion of blacks that are attending university is just too small to generate the kind of high level skills that are required to get the economy going.” This was especially apparent for postgraduate studies, such as masters and doctoral studies. In Lehohla's view, “that's where innovation starts... That's where knowledge is created”.
Lehohla said parents were better skilled compared to their children, arguably due to changes to the education system after 1994.
“What we know is that the nursing schools, the teacher training schools, and where people used to do trades, 1/8those 3/8 schools were closed, and they were converted into part of the university system,” he said.
“The net result has been they, those who are 15 to 34, do not have the skills of their parents, so hence the skills crisis, in part, in the country.” According to the survey, when assessing the lack of textbooks in schools last year, the Eastern Cape was the worst-affected, with 8.7 percent of children lacking textbooks for some of their subjects.
This was followed by KwaZulu-Natal with 8.4 percent of children affected, the North West with 7.5 percent, and the Western Cape 6.9 percent. The national average was 5.5 percent.
When taking into account children not receiving textbooks for any of their subjects, the national average was 1.5 percent.
The worst province in this regard was the Western Cape at three percent, followed by the Northern Cape with 2.5 percent, KwaZulu-Natal at 2.1 percent and the North West, two percent.
The percentage of children attending school who experienced corporal punishment last year was highest in the Eastern Cape at 24.1 percent, according to the survey.
Second place was KwaZulu-Natal at 22.2 percent, followed by the Free State at 16.6 percent. North West was the fourth worst, followed by Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, Gauteng, and the Western Cape.
The national average for children experiencing corporal punishment at schools was 13.5 percent.
A total of 62.4 percent of children across South Africa attended no-fee schools. In 2002, this figure was 0.4 percent.