Education should be high on the business agenda

THE Cape Chamber of Commerce is gravely concerned about the standard of education in South African schools and the fate of the young people who have been let down by a system which has become dysfunctional in some provinces.

“The Minister of Finance, Mr Pravin Gordhan, has called on business to create jobs but business also needs educated people to fill the positions,” said Mr Michael Bagraim, President of the Chamber.

“If the schools are not providing people with the basic literacy and numeracy skills it becomes difficult to employ the school-leavers and the result will be this growing band of frustrated young people.”

He said the problem was not funding as successive Ministers of Finance had provided handsomely for an improved education system, but they had been let down by poor management and unions which had blocked attempts to improve the situation in the classroom.

Ms Viola Manual, Executive Director of the Chamber, said it was time for business to actively become part of the solution.

“The time for inaction is over. We are dealing with a crisis and business needs to first acknowledge that we have allowed this situation to continue for too long,” Ms Manuel said.

“We have been so successful in making our voices heard on issues like e-tolling, input costs and labour issues, but we have been remiss in not making enough noise about the dire situation in our places of learning.”

She said that Professor Jonathon Jansen, vice chancellor of Free State University, was right when he said there was a lack of political commitment to take on the unions and the provincial powers in the under-performing provinces. However Ms Manuel went on to call on business to work with organisations such as their chambers of commerce to find ways to assist in the solution.

“The Cape Chamber is working closely with our universities and our FET colleges. We are calling on our member companies to make more learnership positions available, to engage with their local colleges and find ways to transfer business skills to our students. Our political leaders have a lot to answer for, but business needs to be part of the solution if we are to have any chance of meaningful change.”

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