More than 7 million youths are unemployed are Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET), writes Dennis George, the executive chairperson of African Quartz. Photo Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency(ANA)
More than 7 million youths are unemployed are Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET), writes Dennis George, the executive chairperson of African Quartz. Photo Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency(ANA)

OPINION: Education and training is the single greatest challenge in SA

By Dennis George Time of article published Jun 30, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG - More than 7 million youths are unemployed are Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET). 

More concerning is that 54.8 percent had education levels below matric, 35.4 percent has matric and 2.3 percent of the unemployed persons were graduates.

The Institute of Education found that low educational attainment, lack of motivation, poor health, the requirement for special educational needs, difficult family circumstances with the lack of training, and apprenticeship/internship opportunities are all aggravating factors. International examples illustrate that in an abyss like this the state step in often with unintended and severe social consequences. 

By way of example, NEETs in the UK  remain an intractable problem since welfare support provided a higher income than potential wages.

The Department of Higher Education and Training and NSFAS explain that NEETs lack working experience, funding for tertiary education, or starting businesses. Several NEETs are unaware of the opportunities available to them, some have limited networking skills, information, and resources, though most important is the loss of motivation. 

Mentorship, leadership and lifelong learning could become crucial relationships and are very helpful for NEETs professional development and self-development, which is why many companies and organisations invest heavily in offering these programmes. NEETs do not have positive role models or leaders they can talk to who can keep them motivated. 

Sadly, some NEETs turn to substance abuse, while others find themselves on the wrong side of the law and could easily be recruited into gangsterism. 

I spoke to four successful leaders; how mentorship and lifelong learning could cultivate a new vision for NEETs within the context of Covid19 and high unemployment. NEETs are looking for positive and innovative leaders in society, in entrepreneurship, in business, and sometimes in the political arena for motivation and inspiration. 

Entrepreneur and businesswomen, Rosemary Mosia of Emndeni in Soweto is a winemaker, her wine was selected to be part of the creme de la creme of black-owned wines who were served at President Cyril Ramaphosa inauguration. 

Mosia said despite her passion, it took her more than 10 years before she was able to start the wine venture called Bridge of Hope with her children, Mojalefa, Lebohang, and Moleboheng and for them, it was the vision and leadership to make wine a family legacy.

Mojalefa, the son of Rosemary, who is 24 is in charge of marketing the brand “Bridge of Hope Wine”, while his sisters use their expertise in law and the food and wine industry to help with the running and growing the business.

In terms of lifelong learning and self-development, Mosia completed her BCom with the University of the North, PDM with Wits, Accounting with RAU, and Masters in Business Leadership (UNISA) as well as a National Diploma in Tax Law with UCT. 

Mosia previously worked in finance at state-owned entity Transnet before taking her pension to pursue her dream full time. Mosia developed her wine skill through the enterprise development programme where new wine producers were mentored on not only on how to make wine but how to sell it internationally. NEETs can learn from Mosia. 
Mathematician and black asset manager; Dr Dan Matjila is perhaps one of the most belittled black professionals in South Africa, yet through all the odium he still managed to take the Public Investment Corporation’s (PIC) assets under management (AUM) from R380 billion in 2003 into a more R2.2 trillion. 

The PIC is an asset management giant that is even larger than the likes of Coronation Fund Managers and Old Mutual. Future Growth and Trilinear Asset Management were the only black asset managers for the PIC before 2005. Matjila submitted that his biggest achievement with the mandate of the Government Employee Pension Fund (GEPF), 

Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) and the Compensation Fund were to increase and mentor the black asset managers from seven to 25 to strengthen the participation of oppressed black people in the economy and to fortify Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE)  NEETs can look up to Matjila as a positive role model and his qualities as servant-leader, who values diverse opinions, cultivates a culture of trust and for developing other leaders. In his affidavit to the PIC Commission, Matjila confirmed to make a small contribution to created and sustained 152 226 jobs, while the PIC funded 22 hospitals, with 3 049 beds; 45 349 affordable houses were constructed; there were 91869 housing finance schemes for GEPF members; it ensured that 11 900 student accommodation facilities were made possible as well as 43 679 student loans, and it ensured that 785 SMEs were supported and financed.

Apart from his noteworthy PIC legacy, Matjila increased the employees from less than 40 to 400 professional staff. Matjila completed his Postgraduate Diploma in Mathematical Finance with Oxford University, his Senior Management Programme with the University of Pretoria, his Advanced Management Programme with Harvard Business School. He obtained his Honours Degree in Business Science, Applied Mathematics at Fort Hare, and his Master’s in Business Science in Applied Mathematics at Rhodes University, and while working he completed his PhD in Mathematics at Wits. 

Physicists, tax expert and business turnaround specialist; at the time when Minister Dr Naledi Pandor requested Dr Randall Carolissen to assume the role of administrator of National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS ) in August 2018, the institution faced catastrophic collapse. 

More than 600 000 students had yet to receive NSFAS allowances for 2018 and higher education was in a state of anarchy. 

“I find it difficult to resist challenges - many told me that it was absolute madness to agree to take over as administrator of NSFAS, my background compelled me that it was the right thing to do.” Carolissen grew up in Ravensmead, an Apartheid resettlement for “coloured people that were robbed by Apartheid off their property”. 

Both his grandfathers owned substantial property in Goodwood and the compensation that was offered to his family was insulting. He is the eldest of five children raised by a single mother that reminded them always that poverty was a temporary setback. 

Carolissen served as chairperson of the Wits Council for an unprecedented three terms inclusive of upheaval caused by the 2016 #feesmustfall campaign. 

Randall completed his BSc, his B.Sc (Hons) and M.Sc (cum laude) and PhD in nanotechnology; doing his research at the Nuclear research facility in Faure and  Ivy league 
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. Dr. Carolissen establishes himself as a leading international scholar on laser epitaxy and Schottky barriers, cutting edge research. In this procedure, single crystal silicon is grown on a Chrozalski substrate from a melt induced by pulsed laser irradiation of nanosecond duration. 

Prompted by Prof Jakes Gerwel, Randall joined University of the Western Cape lecturing in solid-state physics, quantum mechanisms, and experimental nuclear physics. 
Randall said about UWC, “No other institution offered generations a gateway out of poverty like the University of the Western Cape, under the visionary leadership of Prof van de Ross, took a chance with my poor marks.” 

At the University of Stellenbosch, he completed the B.Business (Hons) followed by an MBA passing both cum laude and winning the Old Mutual Gold Medal. As MD of SABS, Carolissen transformed the institution and accumulated cash reserves of R100 million, doubling turnover. He completed M.Com (International Tax) with  Northwest University. NEETs can learn that family setbacks and poor matric marks cannot stop a physicist and critical thinker. 

Philanthropist, business entrepreneur and investor; Dr Iqbal Survé is committed towards meaningful transformation of the social and economic landscape of South Africa, to redress the economic legacy of apartheid. As the founder of The Sekunjalo Group, Survé has led the organisation from initial seed capital of $20 000 (1997) to its current portfolio that includes more than 200 investments across the African continent with a presence in 40 African countries and an intrinsic market value of billions of dollars.
In 1997, President Nelson Mandela made an impassioned plea for black professionals to enter the mainstream economy after decades of huge economic disparities due to apartheid.

As medical doctor Survé, he found that no capital was granted to black individuals by the banks and other financial institutions; they were not granted permits to trade; and capital markets were the exclusive domain of white businesspeople. Heeding the call from Mandela, Survé decided to leave medicine, to establish The Sekunjalo Group, which was founded on an ethos of social justice and broad-based economic participation and inclusion for the majority of South Africans as well as putting “people before profits”, and investment in skills development especially of black people, as a means of improving the lives of previously oppressed South Africans. 

Talking with Survé in his Waterfront office, he explained that The Sekunjalo Group is deeply committed to the principles of decent work and considers his biggest achievement of being instrumental in employing more than 28 000 people. 

Just like Warren Buffet, Survé is a very humble person committed to BBBEE and supporting NEETs, while driving a 13-year-old Mercedes Benz. Survé has dedicated more than 90 percent of the dividends and profits of The Sekunjalo Group to an endowment of Survé Philanthropies; established 12 years ago, and associated foundations (The Survé Family  Foundation, Sekunjalo Development Foundation, South Atlantic Arts & Culture Trust, the Iqbal Survé Bursary Trust, and Social Entrepreneurship Foundation). 

These foundations focus on sustainability, development, human rights, children’s rights, education, music, arts and culture, entrepreneurship and impact investments. As an alumnus of the University of Cape Town (UCT) the Graduate School of Business, the American College of Sports Medicine \), and Harvard University with degrees in medicine, science, and business. He completed his MBChB (UCT), BSc. (Med) (Hons) Sports Medicine (UCT), Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine (FACSM), MBA (UCT), SEP (Harvard University), Trustee of the College of Medicine South Africa. 

South Africa must establish a National Month for NEETs, where successful stories of BBBEE, job creation, lifelong learning, and entrepreneurship are celebrated, where the contributions and lessons learned are nurtured to give hope and a new vision for NEETs and others. The are many success stories in South Africa and these should be replicated to defeat unemployment, poverty, and inequality.    

Dr Dennis George is the executive chairperson of African Quartz.


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