The following speech was delivered in Parliament’s debate of the 2019 State of the Nation Address.
After, in your own words, 9 wasted years, you addressed this chamber in your inaugural SONA address, at a time where young South Africans could not afford a single further wasted day. It was an address filled with promises made to a nation desperate for hope, particularly the millions of young South Africans, fast becoming a forgotten generation, without skills or jobs and set up to fail in our institutions of higher learning.
Since then, there is a German Proverb that has stuck with me which claims that, “Promises are like the full moon, if they are not kept at once they diminish day by day.”
When you addressed us last week, one would have expected some reflection on the promises made. When scrutinizing them more closely, I can see why you chose not to do so.
You promised that “At the centre of our national agenda in 2018 would be the creation of jobs, especially for the youth.”
25000 additional youth are unemployed with the expanded youth unemployment increasing to 50.1%, the highest in the world.
You promised a “Youth Employment Service initiative which will create a million paid internships over three years.”
The YES initiative has less than 7000 committed work experiences received. A mere 0.7% of what was promised.
You promised that the Minister of Higher Education will lead the implementation of free higher education.
As late as August last year there were 75 000 students whose funding had still not been paid which was only the tip of the iceberg. The most vulnerable of our students have continued to be set up to fail.
Minister Pandor can’t lead anything and is completely out of touch. It’s time to admit that you have gotten this one wrong. She only acts clever, I am not going to be like the Hon. Willie and say hong hong because I don’t care how a person says something as long as they know what they are talking about and their ignorance is not making our people suffer.
She came here in November claiming that she is confident of a smooth start to the 2019 academic year, claiming significant improvements in the administration of student funding;
On the 17th of January she told Inside Education that she does not anticipate any funding and registration hiccups during the opening of institutions.
How wrong can a person be? This is not something you play with Mr President. A student has been murdered, so too has a residence administrator.
Yesterday, I visited the Walter Sisulu University Ibika campus in Gcuwa. What confronted me was painful. It was the real State of the Nation. Hundreds of students standing helplessly outside in the pouring rain on the day that lectures officially started.
- Most students at the campus are still unregistered
- The institution is owed a billion rand in outstanding debt locking out poor NSFAS qualifying students.
- NSFAS is a complete shamble with student statuses not being updated and incoherent communication leaving students literally out in the cold without allocated accommodation.
- Post-grad student funding is a joke and Btech students are being asked to pay upfront payments.
The same painful story plays out across the country and the Minister’s response is to arrogantly call on students to focus on real concerns. This whilst she hasn’t visited any Universities where this crisis is playing out and exposed herself as completely out of touch in a meeting with student leaders, including those from her own political party.
From your SONA Hon. President, it would seem you are just as out of touch calling on student representatives and university authorities to work together to find solutions to the challenges.
Please balance us Mr President. How exactly do you expect students and universities to solve these problems including NSFAS’s collapse and student debt? Just those two must solve it? Where is your thuma mina or is that this empty space you were asking us to watch?
The tragedy is that 63% of NSFAS students dropped out over a 5-year period. You and your government are setting up poor, mainly black students to fail.
The situation is even worse at our TVET colleges, a sector you ignored in your address.
Infrastructure and equipment are old and insufficient, student services are almost non-existent and academic programmes and curricula on offer are outdated producing throngs of unemployed graduates. The lack of clear articulation policies deprives students of opportunities to progress, work-based training opportunities have declined, and student funding remains unequal compared to university students.
The tragedy in this regard is twofold:
- 68% of TVET colleges have a completion rate of under 50%; and
- Compared to private colleges, students in TVET colleges are not being prepared to compete in an equal footing.
Your government continues to prove itself incapable of building one South Africa for all where all young South Africans can enjoy an equal footing irrespective of the circumstances of their birth.
The DA has proven where we govern that we actually put youth at the centre of our agenda and have a track record of actually delivering.
R600 million in economic savings have been generated through our red tape reduction and ease of doing business strategies in the Western Cape.
The City of Cape Town was recognized as the top opportunity city in Africa with its Business Support Project already facilitating support for over 500 small and medium enterprises per year and job seekers afforded the opportunity to ride the MyCity Bus free of charge.
50% of all new jobs created last year were created in the Western Cape with the province having by far the lowest unemployment rate in the country and the fastest growth in employment.
Fellow South Africans imagine what we can achieve leading the national government.
Introduce a Voluntary National Service – one year of income and skills development for school-leavers, something we have already piloted in the Western Cape through the Premier’s advancement of Youth Programme.
Create job centres throughout South Africa that provide information, advice and free internet to job-seekers.
Grow small business opportunities through increased funding assistance and removing blockages and red-tape.
Prosecute and eliminating the practice of ‘sex for jobs’ and carpet interviews including ‘cash for jobs’ and corruption in allocating jobs.
All matric students would receive a set number of free driving lessons and we would waive the licensing fees for first time applicants.
Our bursaries to learners from low-income families will cover the comprehensive cost of study so as to ensure that learners have the necessary tools, on time, to pass.
We will develop work and study apprenticeship programmes, substantially increasing the involvement of companies to provide opportunities in new and existing fields.
Mr President it is clear that even your government perpetuates two South Africas, it is only the DA that has proven itself capable of building One South Africa for all.