TOWARDS EQUAL ACCESS TO EDUCATION AND ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES
Social commentators acknowledge there is a link between social injustice and South Africa’s triple ills of poverty, inequality and unemployment. Members of our communities who do not enjoy the same benefits as others because of their physical and mental condition, education level and geographic location are susceptible to varying social injustices. Breaking the grip of social injustice in South Africa should begin with equal access to education and economic opportunities.
REDEMPTION FOR THE DEAF IN SKILLS DEVELOPMENT
During the State of the Nation Address 2018, President Cyril Ramaphosa reiterated government’s commitment to providing economic opportunities for people with disabilities. He specifically noted Amavulandlela Funding Scheme, established by the Small Enterprise Finance Agency to provide business finance to entrepreneurs with disabilities. He added that Sign Language will be offered as a Home Language as of 2018, to enable deaf learners to write the National Senior Certificate examination in South African Sign Language (SASL). This is a long sought-after breakthrough for the deaf community that translates into a matric certificate and access to universities. It is difficult for people with hearing difficulties to enter the labour market because they often do not have the minimum requirements such as a matric certificate The President also acknowledged the role NGOs and community-based organisations play in addressing the triple ills. This perception aligns with that of Transport Education Training Authority (TETA). In promoting inclusive education, TETA partnered with Deaf Empowerment Firm (DEF) to provide opportunities to youth with hearing difficulties. DEF believes skills development can redeem the deaf youth from the claws of low education levels, lowincome jobs and limited participation in economic activities. The social enterprise therefore partnered with TETA to provide a learnership programme to 48 deaf young people which will result in an accredited qualification.
or college/university qualification. Most schools specialising in education for the deaf do not offer a matric curriculum and teachers in some of these schools have not acquired fluency in SASL. This leads to a high rate of the deaf population leaving school without a matric certificate and not pursuing post-school qualifications. “Our vision is driven by the prescripts of Articles 24 and 27 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its optional protocol, to which South Africa is a signatory, as well as Strategic Pillar 5 of the White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, all of which speak to the question of Persons with Disabilities gaining access to education and employment opportunities,” said DEF Managing Director, Sikelelwa Msitshana. Msitshana also expressed her gratitude towards other partnering companies in this initiative for opening their doors to offer the learners internships and/or workplace exposure. The Aurum Institute took learners into fields such as training, data capturing, operations and human resources. Bridgewater Logistics is exposing learners to receiving, packing, stock-taking, administration, delivery and courier functions. The hospitality company Ukhweza came on board and placed DEF learners at WITS University dining halls and Mediclinic Midstream, exposing them to various catering and hospitality fields.
UNLOCKING ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE YOUTH
Networx for Career Development enrolled 200 graduates in a Workplace Readiness Programme (WRP). The programme, financially supported by TETA, exposed graduates to basic employability skills which include communication skills, business etiquette, presentation skills, conflict management, business writing, interpersonal skills and self-management. The programme achieved 90% completion rate and more than 67% employment rate on a permanent, contract or fixed-term basis. The training was rolled out in different phases, spanning six months. The first two months of the programme focused on classroom-based mentoring and the remaining four months focused on practical skills in a simulated workplace environment, followed by practical workplace coaching. Graduates received training through entry-level positions in (among others) logistics, freight, HR, finance, administration, call centre, supply chain and IT departments. The South African youth population (between the ages of 15 and 24) accounts for 10 million of the overall population. Of the 10 million, 55.9% were reportedly unemployed in the second quarter of 2017. A lack of adequate employability skills and the inability to push through the challenges of entry job positions are often cited as some of the reasons behind the high unemployment rate among the youth. Community organisations such as Networx help to bridge the gap between the knowledge and skills that graduates possess, and the skills demands in the labour market. Commenting on the feedback received from participating graduates and employers thus far, Ursula Dlamini of Networx said, “Graduates highlighted the amount of personal development acquired during the programme and how this has greatly assisted them in adjusting and coping with workplace demands. The employer feedback highlighted the high caliber of graduates deployed. We are inundated with requests for the next roll-out from employers.” Networx acknowledges that other partners in this project, Women in Business Today and transport sector employers specifically, played a crucial role in the success of the programme. Networx’s WRP was rolled out in the Western Cape, Free State, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. The pressure on government agencies to address the triple ills robbing South Africa of its progress towards a better life for all its citizen is real. But our community partners have been playing crucial roles in helping us make a notable impact for many members of our society who are affected by the triple ills.