Creating employable young people is parents’ responsibility

South African parents have an unhealthy obsession with private schools and university ... I am as guilty as anyone.

According to a list issued earlier this week, South Africa’s unemployment stands at 27%, which means almost one out of every three South Africans are jobless.

That’s nearly double the unemployment rate of developing countries like Turkey or Brazil and three times that of Argentina and India.

And if that doesn’t shock you, look at this: the youth unemployment rate climbed to 54.7% in the last quarter of 2018. Less than half of the young people who enter the labour market with the desire to work and dreams to succeed, get employed.

We can harp on about investor confidence and the exchange rate, but the only thing that can really kick-start growth and economic healing is jobs. Without jobs, the economy will continue to waddle on in limp mode.

Yes, government has a role to play. As has the private sector. But to be perfectly honest, the responsibility to create employable young people rests with me and my fellow-parents.

Today, I have to confess: South African parents have an unhealthy obsession with private schools and university … I am as guilty as anyone.

Look, don’t misunderstand me. I dearly love the two-year-old Egg and only want to give her the best life has to offer. But I can’t morally justify sending her to a school with annual fees high enough to buy a small automobile while millions of children go to bed hungry.

I would also love to see her graduate from a good university, but the statistics tell me 600 000 graduates – most of them from the humanities – are unemployed.

Do I really want to see my little girl as an unemployed expert on ancient art history or the work of (heaven forbid) Virginia Woolf? Then much rather an employed plumber or electrician.

Jobs are almost guaranteed for artisans. As a matter of fact, we don’t have enough – we have to import more.

And public schools? Yes, some are terrible. As are some of the private schools, which offer very little more than bragging rights to status-conscious parents.

“But some public schools are great. I used to teach at a private school and the public school where I work now is just as good,” a teacher called Tabitha told me the other day.

As the ad for a big bank used to say: “It makes you think…”

Dirk Lotriet. Picture: Alaister Russell

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