Youth Month: Double graduate Thandeka Kubheka furthers her studies as job market woes deepen

Thandeka Kubheka is now doing Honours at the Vaal University of Technology. She plans to continue with her Masters if she doesn’t get a job. Photo:Supplied

Thandeka Kubheka is now doing Honours at the Vaal University of Technology. She plans to continue with her Masters if she doesn’t get a job. Photo:Supplied

Published Jun 13, 2023


Pretoria - A two-time graduate who wanted to escape the stress of unemployment, has decided to further her studies by pursuing her honours degree instead of sitting at home, doing nothing.

Thandeka Kubheka, 32, is a two time correctional service management graduate from the Tshwane University of Technology.

“I don’t come from a privileged background, I lost my mom at a very young age. So when I went to tertiary, I thought I’m taking the right step and this step will at least fix certain areas in my life,” said Kubheka, who has so far failed to secure employment.

Kubheka is one of millions of young South Africans who are struggling to find gainful employment in South Africa.

She is now pursuing her honours degree at the Vaal University of Technology, a decision she took after she realised she was being overlooked when applying for work opportunities.

The 32-year-old from Kwaggafointen in Mpumalanga explained to IOL that she fell pregnant during her matric year and took time to raise her son before pursuing her studies in her twenties.

“I fell pregnant just when I was about to finish my matric, so it only made sense to raise my son first before I thought about university.

“In 2017, I registered at TUT and finished my diploma in record time and passed with cum laude. I was certain my performance will speak for me when applying for an internship, but I was in for a surprise. I didn’t even get a callback for an interview.

“I then decided to do my advanced diploma... I also finished it in record time and graduated in 2022, but up until now, l haven’t secured anything, even a mere internship just to get that training, nothing,” she said.

Kubheka course at the time did not require students to secure internships before graduating.

“They only changed things after we left, now its a requirement... We also wanted that for us but unfortunately it was only implemented after we had left,” she explained.

Kubheka said during the pandemic, she was part of the 300 000 teacher assistants programme that hired youths in an effort to provide opportunities and experience to young people with tertiary education.

“It was better than nothing, I did that for a year and after it was finished, I found myself unemployed again, sitting at home with nothing to occupy me.

“I even got tired of reading, it was no longer fun. And it’s not like I wasn’t applying, I’ve been applying, it’s just hard to get something in this country, even a call to an interview is a myth,” she said sounding despondent.

According to Kubheka, her qualification only secures her employment at the Department of Correctional Services.

“I’m not only restricted to being a prison warden, I have other opportunities within the department, I can do admin, be a probation officer, case manager, a counsellor and other things within the field.”

She said she applied for positions which were advertised at the department three times.

“I first applied when I was doing my second year and applied twice again after graduating, unfortunately all my applications were unsuccessful.”

In an attempt to mitigate her situation, Kubheka said she tried selling ice-cream to generate some income, but the business died a slow death due to load shedding.

To escape the stress, Kubheka said she decided to further her studies and registered at the Vaal University of Technology.

“I wanted to take a break and focus on something else, even getting a job for something I didn’t study for would have been better. But unfortunately this country has nothing to offer.

“So I went back to school to avoid idling around because it’s also stressful. Also, education is never a waste, if this country doesn’t recognise me, at least I stand a chance in other countries that employ ambitious South Africans like me,” she added.

Kubheka hopes to secure a job while studying and if she doesn’t, she says she will continue studying.

“I will do my Masters which will also at least offer me an opportunity to become a lecturer. I’ve worked as a tutor while studying at TUT, so I guess doing it on a professional level won’t be such a bad idea.”

Unemployment among graduates in South Africa is far worse now than it was a decade ago.

According to PwC, an international accounting firm, the main reason for unemployment among graduates in South Africa was a skills mismatch between companies and graduates.

“Large numbers of employers in Africa are citing inadequately-skilled workforces as a major constraint to business expansion and growth as a result of a mismatch between the number of young educated job seekers and the availability of formal, high-quality jobs and young people being inadequately-prepared for future job roles,” said the company.

PwC said the continent had great potential for high labour force participation, but the creation of quality formal sector jobs remained a challenge.