/ 10 January 2011

Class of 2010 in limbo

More than 20% of learners who heard last week that they had passed the matric exams could be left in limbo in the 2011 academic year — despite an increase in places at various post-school institutions announced by the department of higher education this week.

On Monday Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande announced that his department would increase the number of learning opportunities at Further Education and Training (FET) colleges, universities, learnerships and short skills programmes to 288 487. This is an increase of 103 940 (or 56%) compared to 2010.

However, more than 364 000 learners passed the 2010 National Senior Certificate (NSC) exams, so that even this increase in learning opportunities will leave 76 000 learners not catered for.

“As for the 76 000 learners who risk missing out on the learning opportunities available, that is a real South African dilemma. It’s not something we [the department of higher education and training] alone can answer,” departmental spokesperson Moloantoa Molaba told the Mail & Guardian.

But in a significant development, learners at FET colleges will be exempted from paying academic fees and will receive a 15% subsidy of their transport costs, provided they pass a means test and their family’s income is less than R122 000 per year.

“We are hoping to assist about 139 000 students [this year] in this manner,” said Molaba.

There are 50 FET Colleges across the country, offering vocational qualifications for learners who have a Grade 9 pass, an NQF level 1 qualification or a Grade 12 certificate. These colleges offer courses ranging from marketing to management; mechatronics; finance; information technology; civil engineering and building construction; tourism; hospitality; administration and primary agriculture, Nzimande explained in a media release on Monday.

Learners who achieved “bachelors” passes in matric are eligible to enter any university, provided they meet the entry requirements of the insitution they apply to (those requirements vary across universities).

Learners with passes allowing for admission to diploma or certificate studies qualify for entry into programmes which are offered at comprehensive universities or universities of technology.

Nzimande said his department had identified engineering sciences, animal and human health sciences, natural and physical sciences and teacher education as “critical areas” for further study.

Further information on the options available to school leavers obtained from the call centre on 0800 872 222, the Career Advice Helpline on 0860 111 673 or at www.careerhelp.org.za