The Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, has expressed government’s commitment to working with relevant stakeholders to find solutions to unemployment for graduates within the indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) sector.
The Minister was speaking at a two-day virtual summit hosted by North-West University (NWU) in collaboration with the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and the Universities of Venda, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal on 30 and 31 March 2021.
The aim of the summit was to find innovative ways of creating decent and productive employment opportunities for IKS graduates who are struggling to find employment.
With youth unemployment in South Africa at an all-time high, it is of great concern that there is also a lack of research with regard to unemployed. This continues to be a concern for IKS students and graduates, and if left unattended, could cause more harm.
“It is therefore important to bring our entire nation to a national summit such as this, to provide the necessary strategies for productive employment and entrepreneurial prospects for IKS graduates,” said Dr Nzimande.
The Minister called for the development of a database of all unemployed and underemployed IKS graduates to assist government in partnership with other stakeholders to provide intervention measures through work-integrated learning, internships, job opportunities and training in entrepreneurship.
Dr Nzimande said institutions of higher learning should not produce graduates who end up either jobless or taking up jobs not relevant to their qualifications, and welcomed the first National IKS Job Summit as a good platform to brainstorm and find strategies to address this problem.
He added that the integration of African indigenous knowledge systems into higher education provided many opportunities for students to learn through culture.
“Furthermore, it provides the space for the decolonisation of education, addressing the curriculum and transformation, redressing past injustices, and promoting African indigenous languages in teaching and learning.”
Click here to read Dr Nzimande’s keynote address.
NWU takes the lead in IKS
The NWU was the first university to offer a bachelor’s degree in Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS), which was registered and approved by the Council for Higher Education (CHE) in 2013.
However, according to Dr Motheo Koitsiwe, director of the NWU IKS Centre, it is unfortunate that among the many graduates the university had produced since, less than a handful had found employment.
One of these graduates is Mamello Hlabe, who after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in IKS in 2013, went from temporary teaching posts at schools in North West to lecturing in social sciences. Unfortunately, she was retrenched in 2020, even though armed with a master’s degree in anthropology.
Mamello is not giving up and is setting her sights on a PhD in IKS.
“I got concerned looking back. From the first group of 11 students who enrolled for a bachelor’s degree in IKS, seven graduated and only four found related employment. The rest are in teaching or doing something unrelated to IKS – like myself,” she says.
With her decision to pursue a PhD in IKS, Mamello hopes to provide possible answers to this problem – whether it is adapting the curriculum or the marketing of IKS in South Africa, among others.
With the summit advising graduates to be innovative in creating IKS-related jobs, she says her passion remains in the academia.
“I am bold to be doing a PhD in IKS. Even though I feel scared that I might end up without a job, I would also like to come up with some solutions to inform policy. Therefore, my research will focus on universities, the private sector and where graduates find themselves currently,” she explains.
IKS lecturer and doctoral candidate registered with the NWU IKS Centre Tshepiso Ndlovhu says the challenge of decent work, productive employment, and suitable entrepreneurship prospects would hamper the development of IKS in the country.
He adds that since 2001, the South African government – through the NRF, DSI, and other government departments – have funded universities to support students who are interested in IKS. However, the majority of these graduates remain unemployed.
“The challenges faced by unemployed IKS graduates do not only result in frustration, but also lead to emotional and economic stress and contribute to the impoverishment of the African family,” Tshepiso adds.