Mpumalanga’s youth face bleak prospects

James Masango MPL

Provincial Chief Whip of the Official Opposition

Thousands of Mpumalanga’s youth are faced with a bleak future of joblessness and desperate poverty, unless education MEC Reginah Mhaule and the education department implement an effective strategy to keep learners from dropping out of school before finishing matric.

The DA’s research found that over 50 000 Grade 11 learners dropped out of school in the 2011 and 2012 academic years alone. While many interrelated factors play a role causing learners dropping out of school, such as poverty, collapsed family structures, teenage pregnancy and substance abuse, the education department’s strategies are clearly failing to keep learners in school.

During his 2013 State of the Province Address, premier David Mabuza quoted statistics showing Mpumalanga’s unemployment rate at 29,4%, the third highest in the country, and youth unemployment at 43% (75% of the total of the province’s unemployed). Of further concern is national youth crime statistics that show that 54 717 of Mpumalanga’s youth aged 14 to 25 have committed a crime, with more than 31 000 arrested.

While there may not be a direct correlation between school dropouts and crime, it is a known fact that unemployment is one cause of crime. With 75% of the unemployed in Mpumalanga the youth, this factor simply cannot be ignored.

In 2010, the DA-led Western Cape government introduced a 10-point plan to improve the education system as whole and to increase its retention rate. The result was that thousands of learners stayed in school for longer, and managed to obtain matric. This plan has formed the basis for the DA’s national strategy to improve education, which can be viewed by clicking here.

This is in stark contrast with Mpumalanga whose education strategy seems to be focussed on increasing the matric pass rate percentage, and either ‘encouraging’ poor performing learners to drop out, or repeatedly failing them in Grade 11 until they stop trying – unless there is different reason why almost 4 000 less matrics sat for the exams in 2012 than 2010, despite a 20% population growth rate.

To this end, the DA will submit written parliamentary questions to MEC Mhaule asking her to explain government’s Grade 11 retention strategy and whether other options, such a learnerships and artisan training are available. We will also ask the MEC to explain what successes the current retention strategy and education campaign have had in ensuring more children attended school.

Education is the cornerstone of prosperity, which will create equal opportunity for all and truly transform our society.

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