Eric Naki
Political Editor
4 minute read
30 Nov 2021
9:39 pm

Judge Maya calls on varsities to emphasise practical components in degrees they offer

Eric Naki

Outdated HR systems, structures and processes that favour experienced workers over first time job seekers were also said to be a culprit.  

Newly installed Chancellor of the University of Mpumalanga judge president Mandisa Maya. (Photo by Gallo Images / Sunday Times / Alon Skuy)

Newly installed Chancellor of the University of Mpumalanga judge president Mandisa Maya has challenged universities including UMP to emphasise practical components in the degrees they offer to deal with high unemployment in the country.

She said there was a need to bridge the “yarning gap” between universities and the workplace.

Maya, who is judge president of the Supreme Court of Appeal and shortlisted for Chief Justice, said the primary concern constantly raised by the young people was unemployment. This happened despite research showing there were over 500,000 entry level jobs in South Africa that remain unfilled.

One of the reasons cited was the mismatch between the skills required by employers on one hand, and the skills of those entering the labour market, particularly our young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, on the other hand.

“There are concerns that universities do not adequately prepare graduates for work, and that there is a significant gap in soft skills such as communication skills, problem-solving skills, business acumen and technological savvy that are required for the workplace,” Maya said.

Outdated HR systems, structures and processes that favour experienced workers over first time job seekers were also said to be the culprit.  

ALSO READ: Justice Maya replaces Ramaphosa as University of Mpumalanga chancellor

There was therefore a yawning gap that needed to be bridged between university and the workplace and tertiary institutions had to find ways to offer an education that placed students in a position not only to secure employment, but to thrive in the workplace.

“This is just one of the practical challenges in respect of which we should redouble our efforts to resolve. The solution for this one at least lies in the commitment and collaboration among higher institutions of learning, the public and the private sectors and civil society urgently developing a focused response to eradicate the systemic hurdles which have already been identified. And working hand-in-hand, those partnerships will assist greatly in solving the other challenges of the day,” Maya said.

Maya, who was inaugurated as UMP’s second chancellor taking over from President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday, said various “attractive propositions” had  been suggested such as putting a greater emphasis on the practical components of academic degrees and including internships as parts of the syllabi to ensure that by the time students graduate, they have a modicum of work experience.

On education generally, the Eastern Cape-born judge highlighted the host of crises “our deeply fractured country” faced such as corruption, poverty, unemployment especially among young people, extreme violence especially against women and children, serious and rampant crime, climate change that wreaks terrible storms and flooding, drought, power outages and other life disruptions and strange diseases.

“Humanity is torn by greed, envy, anger, mistrust, lack of understanding of its different norms, cultures and languages, ignorance, confusion and conflict. It is completely out of tune with itself and the world surrounding it. The Covid-19 pandemic has only deepened these fissures and created additional ills and a need to redefine all aspects of human life,” Maya said.

However, not all was lost as education was a powerful tool which must be accessible to all so that no one was left behind, “that we can use to heal ourselves, repair our country and the world and achieve all the Sustainable Development Goals we set for our world by 2030, which is suddenly just around the corner”.

But it is well to note that a true education system is no longer just about imparting knowledge. It can no longer be kept within the confines of university corridors. Sustainable, developmental research and community engagement are critical.

“There has to be a harmonisation of our species to the world and a harmonisation of cultures, genders and other differences among ourselves.  The fast changing nature of our world has made it necessary to reskill and re-educate the human population to meet the new needs. Our teachers and staff must be encouraged to be advocates for this change we seek; to develop new teaching methods and solutions through education and experiences gained in the classrooms and in general life.

“We must inculcate the values of integrity, empathy, trust and mutual respect and agitate even more fiercely for the agenda of equality, inclusion and diversity too. We need to instil the ethos of ethical leadership in our young people and empower them to be agents of change for a sustainable world order,” Maya said.

“We must stimulate a curiosity in them to explore ways in which sustainable development can be used to lift people out of poverty, to open frontiers, reconstruct our society and to interrogate world issues so that they may gain an informed world view and global citizenship to achieve world unity, peace, security and prosperity in our country and in the rest of the world.”