Uneducated and unskilled youth are a “ticking time bomb” of pent-up emotions that will explode if not addressed soon, says Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.
“We have close to 2.8 million young people between the ages of 18 and 24 that are unemployed, and not in any institution of learning… this important social segment needs to pulled back into economic productivity as soon as possible,” he said in a speech prepared for delivery at the 16th National Economic Development and Labour Council annual summit in Johannesburg on Friday.
According to a National Planning Commission report there were extremely high levels of illiteracy and innumeracy in schools throughout South Africa, and current growth projections were unsustainable for the economy’s future, he said. “Drastic measures” were needed to build an educated and skilled labour force, he added. “We need to move beyond social dialogue… I believe that working together as partners we can do more to answer some of these challenges through incrementally building a pool of skills, know-how and knowledge base needed by the South African economy.”
Addressing the 46th Conference of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies in Johannesburg earlier in the week, Motlanthe added that unless action was taken, “there is bound to be imperviousness to rational debates on development and these will eventually entrench the feelings of despondency and apathy because we would have failed to equip youth with alternatives.
“Until we all work together to mentor, educate and train the youth they will remain without hope for a better future. It is therefore important that we understand the current youth unrests as a bellow of hungry calls for development, which we must address forthrightly and without delay.
“In this regard the government has set itself the objective to create a better life for all through five priorities; which are Education, Health, the fight against crime and corruption, job creation and rural development. Education remains central to our developmental agenda and the goal of building a prosperous, stable and cohesive society. In turn education provides the bedrock upon which we can realise of our development objectives. With this in mind we have linked education and skills training as the core part of our New Growth Path in enabling employment and job creation.
“It is for this reason that we have developed a Human Resource Development Strategy to ensure that we systematically strengthen the skills and human resource base of our country through a system of further education and training,” Motlanthe added.
“The success of this strategy is dependent on all role players in human resource development from government, civil society, organised business, organised labour, professional bodies and research communities reinforcing and complementing each other in skills development programmes. We hope that this program will receive support from those of you who are professionals.”