Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) have been at the centre of almost every political debate since inception, especially when the issue of employment and provision of skills is on the table. Being part of a contingent that has taken the mantle to deliver on the promises of the National Skills Development Strategy, I have been overwhelmed at the contribution we have made unaware to the lives of thousands of South Africans. Politics aside, if you ask me now if the SETA system is working, without reservation I will boldly tell you that the system is well on track and YES it is working.
I will not attempt to write about the shortcomings of the systems neither do I attend to appear like the paid piper who plays the tune of the master. One thing that I am prepared to do is to profess like the biblical figure who once cried out: “One thing I know though is that the blind can see and the lame can walk”.
Through the National Skills Development Act we are steadily perfecting a system that has taken other countries years and years to perfect. Ireland for example is said to have taken 40 years to fully reap the rewards of education and training authorities. It has taken South Africa just 10 years to produce learnership graduations. Debating about the absorption of these learners by the market will be reserved for future articles but for interest sake I will say that official statistics show that the learnership of one particular SETA has resulted in more than 80% placement over the years.
As I am writing this I am attending a graduation ceremony, my second in a series that cuts across all provinces. In this graduation, taking place in Johannesburg, more than four hundred young people were conferred with a nationally recognized certificate. This is not just another graduation as you might think. This is a graduation of people some of whom thought it was the end of a dream when they completed normal schooling and realized that they cannot embark on further education due to lack of funds. Thanks to the Skills Development Strategy and thanks to the SETA system these young people can now see brighter future for themselves.
During the first graduation that I attended in Polokwane, a province to the north of the country, I couldn’t help myself but shed a tear. There were less graduants there, about thirty to be exact but what was more touching was the fact that the number of guests doubled the number of graduants. By guests I mean parents and well wishers excluding honoured guests and the academia. Every time a learner ascended the stage to be conferred, ululations would fill the room and parents would recite their children’s clan names. It was a very touching ceremony. After all the festivities I saw a mother who tightly embraced her son and danced with him as tears cascaded her face.
In this graduation here in Johannesburg, I have witnessed all forms of African traditional dances as fathers danced and stomped their feet as their children left the stage with their capes on. All these are parent, some of who could never have afforded to send their children to institutions of higher learning.
Now I will say with conviction that the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) are producing results. No matter what politicians; doomsayers and their ilk say, the Skills Development Strategy is producing the intended results. Just because the Sills Development Act is not benefiting one section of the population, like the previously manipulated Manpower Training Act, it cannot be therefore be seen as being ineffective.
The problem is not with the Act or the Strategy or SETAs. The problem is with people who see the system as a cash cow to enable them to realize their self fulfilling dream of financial enrichment. I believe that skills development is a cause greater than petty politics; greater than selling newspapers with corruption stories and it is also greater than any individual’s personal ambitions of being rich.
Our cause, as people who are mandated to implement the Skills Strategy, is a greater cause. We cannot stop trying. We cannot stop running. We simply cannot fail as there are decades and decades of inaccuracies that we have to make right. We also cannot expect to achieve our goals overnight.
If anyone still doubts the impact of the National Skills Development Strategy; the Skills Development Act and the Sector Education and Training Authorities just ask them to talk to a learner who has been through the system. Let that person talk to a parent whose child has been through the system.
Let no one betray this cause. FORWARD TO A SKILLED SOUTH AFRICA!.