/ 1 November 2010

New blood at DHET

President Jacob Zuma signalled his Cabinet’s commitment to improving the skills sector by appointing Hlengiwe Mkhize as the new deputy minister in the Department of Higher Education and Training.

Mkhize was one of nine changes to Zuma’s Cabinet announced on Sunday and was formerly deputy minister of correctional services.

Mkhize has no recent education experience, but spent 11 years as a lecturer, at both the University of Zululand and at Wits, before taking up various other positions in civil society and government. These include a stint with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and three years as South Africa’s ambassador to The Netherlands.

“Education is a top priority of this government. We have seen it prudent to strengthen the skills and human resource development sector by appointing a deputy minister to assist the minister of Higher Education and Training, given the size of the portfolio,” Zuma said while announcing the Cabinet reshuffle on Sunday.

Government’s main avenues for skills development and dealing with youth unemployment are Further Education and Training (FET) colleges and the sector education and training authorities (Seta). Recent figures suggest that more than 50% of our 18- to 24-year-olds are not in education, training or work.

Minister Blade Nzimande recently held an FET colleges summit and a seperate skills summit to address what could be the most significant governance change affecting education and training for 10 years: the bringing together under one department, after last year’s elections, of Setas (previously under the eye of the labour department) and FET colleges (previously under the education department and in particular provincial departments).

The challenge facing the department in this regard has been compounded with the recent resignation of deputy director Mary Metcalfe and Nzimande’s spokesperson Ranjeni Munusamy.