For the hundreds of thousands of learners who pass through the Eastern Cape education system, their chances of finding a job are severely limited even before they leave school.
What is to be done?
Fixing the education system clearly has a critical role to play in addressing the inter-related challenges of poverty and unemployment in the Eastern Cape. Some of the solutions are:
New legislation that will make teachers’ right to strike subject to certain limitations; introducing a special allowance to supplement the salaries of teachers who possess scarce subject knowledge; introducing minimum qualifications for school principals; providing additional training for teachers to improve their literacy and numeracy teaching skills.
The Eastern Cape boasts a number of economic assets that, with the right policy changes, have the potential to put this province on a high growth path.
First, with no fewer than four major universities – Rhodes University, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Walter Sisulu University, and the University of Fort Hare – as well as numerous other training and vocational colleges, the Eastern Cape has the intellectual assets it needs to become a regional research and development hub, and a key player in our country’s knowledge economy.
Second, the province is the centre of our country’s motor industry. This is a major asset. Both Volkswagen South Africa and Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa have manufacturing plants in the Eastern Cape, while General Motors and Mercedes Benz South Africa have assembly plants here.
Third is the province’s rich environmental endowment. Blessed with a significant portion of South Africa’s farm land, the Eastern Cape is the centre of the country’s livestock production, with specific emphasis on cattle, sheep and goats. The Langkloof Valley and the Alexandria-Grahamstown area, moreover, specialise in fruit farming, and tea and coffee cultivation, respectively.
Fourthly, for the tourism sector, it means creating an environment in which it is simpler and easier to do business. Policy priorities on this front include: reducing the regulatory barriers faced by tourism operators; investing in world class transport and communications infrastructure; and ensuring the safety and security of both local and international visitors.
The Eastern Cape faces seemingly intractable challenges. Poverty is widespread. Too many people go hungry. Unemployment is unacceptably high. However, the province also features a number of notable economic assets that, combined with intelligent policy choices, could unlock rapid economic growth and lay the foundations for prosperity for all.
To make this happen, however, the provincial administration will require a radical transformation. Corrupt officials and so-called ‘cadres’ need to be sacked. Tender compliance and monitoring will have to be significantly beefed-up so that precious resources are not wasted. A graduate recruitment programme needs to be put in place to attract the best young talent so we can begin to build a world-class public service.
The ANC will tell you that, to tackle poverty and unemployment, we need to dismantle the Constitution. The DA says: “we don’t need a new Constitution, we need a new government!”