Education is a critical pillar to leverage progress and innovation for South Africa’s future generations and for making an economic contribution to global growth. Education is required to stimulate creative problem solving and locally relevant product innovation for all economic activity. A thriving economy enables growth, transformation and access to quality education.
It is discouraging to note that according to 2018 statistics, only 7% of the adult population in South Africa has a tertiary qualification. There are higher numbers for non-tertiary qualifications, which is promising but does not aid the requirement of critical scarce skills in our country.
The past two years of the Covid-19 pandemic have seen learners overcome immense obstacles. These obstacles have affected their access to education, social connections and experiences.
The department of basic education and the higher education department have identified that technology hubs, exploration centres, smart campus platforms, research projects, fourth industrial revolution projects and future of work dialogues are essential to supporting learners and education.
This means there must be a focus on investing in future-ready graduates who can have a positive social effect, in research that fosters growth and development, in service and operational excellence through resource optimisation and in digitally advancing South Africa’s learning and educational entities.
“The [higher education department] and South African educational entities are committed to putting the country and its learners at the forefront of the global economy and to collaborate with companies across multiple sectors by creating a community of advocates and partners at the highest level,” says Panyaza Lesufi, Gauteng’s MEC of education. “If we cannot get education right, we can’t get our country right or the skills sorely needed today. And we need these skills to create a performing economy that will help us overcome significant challenges in our country.”
At a recent graduation ceremony of the Dimension Data Saturday School class of 2021, the MEC thanked the learners and tutors for the continued investment into this future. He also pointed out that it is critical for young people to get the support they need to realise their potential and the opportunity that lies in technology and innovation. “The fact that every one of these students has graduated, even through these tough times, demonstrates their strength of character and the importance of programmes like this.”
New skills and solutions are needed for businesses and individuals to thrive in the rapidly changing world of work. Exponential technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, machine learning, blockchain, the Internet of Things, 5G and robotics are redefining the foundations of business and education.
It’s critical that we provide South African learners with the tools they need to take hold of these technologies and innovate, invent and create.
The true value of this type of programme is its ability to facilitate access to education and build skills for the future in a safe environment for students to learn and contribute to progress. Young people want to learn, they want to take hold of the potential of technology by innovating and transforming society. Educational programmes that enable accessible and inclusive connections to ensure everyone benefits from a digital economy are essential.
Education enables our creativity and helps us to have a continuous flow of critical skills. We need to enable our children to learn by providing them with the wi-fi, technology and support they need to achieve each key education milestone.
Every learner that has graduated from our Saturday school this year has overcome uncertainty, a pandemic and upheaval and each one is an exceptional example of how determination can overcome adversity.