102 000 students still waiting on certificates
More than a hundred thousand graduates from Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges are still waiting on their certificates, Parliament was told yesterday. To make matters worse, Parliament was also told that many TVET courses are so inadequate, outdated and lacking in terms of practical components that even should the certificates ultimately be received, they may not be worth the paper they are written on.
The backlog has purportedly been caused by IT issues, for which the State Information and Technology Agency (SITA) is responsible. Last year, SITA undertook to Parliament that it would clear the massive backlog in certificates by January 2016. However, SITA now admits that a reported 102 000 TVET graduates are still waiting for 181 000 certificates to be issued. The backlog has only diminished from 236 000 outstanding certificates in August 2015. This is unacceptable, particularly considering many of these certificates have been outstanding for over nine years.
Sadly, SITA’s continuing inability to simply keep IT systems functioning has left thousands of graduates unable to enter the job market after working hard to gain their qualifications.
More worryingly perhaps is that even when they receive their certificates, many graduates enter the job market with inadequate qualifications.
Control body Umalusi reported that the TVET exam system, which entails 252 subjects and 3.2 million individual exams annually, is riddled with anomalies, inadequacies, inconsistencies and weaknesses. Umalusi also noted that exam markers were not qualified or knowledgeable enough to mark the papers they were marking. As a result, the majority of the millions of exams Umalusi moderates a year are moderated upwards. This is a symptom of weakness and an “unstable system” according to Umalusi Chair Professor John Volmink. Umalusi, also reported that the curricula themselves are outdated and lack essential practical components.
Ultimately, these weaknesses mean that students can’t be sure if what they are learning is relevant, or what they are examined on is consistent with what they learnt. Likewise, employers cannot be sure if students with these qualifications have been taught what they need to know to be employable.
The above blunders arise not from a lack of personnel or funding, but as a result of inexcusable state ineptitude. Yet, rather than focusing on remedying this, the Minister seems more concerned with centralising more and more power in his Department, such as in the new Higher Education Amendment Bill.
We urge him to urgently address these issues, so as to demonstrate that his Department can manage the tasks it has already taken on, before even considering further steps to centralise higher education under his control.
Statement issued by Prof Belinda Bozzoli MP, DA Shadow Minister for Higher Education and Training, 5 February 2016