The Economist’s most recently published Pocket World in Figures report confirms that South Africa has the highest youth unemployment rate of any other country in the world. That is where Banking Sector Education and Training Authority (BANKSETA) Board Chairperson, Nosipho “Mia” Makhanya, steps up to the plate. She believes that the high youth unemployment rate is troublesome as it reflects the large number of vulnerable youth who struggle to find meaningful participation in the economy.
At just 30 years of age herself, Makhanya is the youngest person to ever hold a spot on the BANKSETA Board, and her passion for the UN’s fourth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of quality education shines through all she does. Here is how the BANKSETA, in particular, is working to unravel those drastic unemployment figures, in providing better educational and entrepreneurial opportunities alike…
Makhanya is adamant that the youth should always be at the heart of South Africa’s economic agenda. She was taught to value education – whether formal or informal – from an early age, seeing it not just as a pathway to success – as a means of escaping poverty and attaining financial security – but also for its greater purpose of benefiting humankind, in changing the world we live in.
This ties in with her belief that education is the ‘gateway SDG’ through which all others can be achieved as it unlocks latent potential that would otherwise remain dormant, resulting in creative problem-solving that brings about societal change. That is why Makhanya has used her own education to enhance the lives of those around her. A good foundation of quality education means a better future for all
In addition to being a qualified Chartered Accountant [CA(SA)] and Chartered Financial Analyst, she also has a strong entrepreneurial spirit, and says her CA(SA) skills built a strong backbone that led her to leave the typical corporate world at the end of 2014, for greater flexibility to help shape the country’s development through her Ngwenyama Yezulu financial consulting and advisory firm. Makhanya credits the chartered accountancy profession for providing her with not just a technical understanding of finances and systematic problem-solving thinking, but also a basis of good governance and ethical behaviour.
That, in particular, is why she’s passionate about the need for quality education at every stage, and her belief that every educational building block laid – from early childhood development through high school level, to institutions of higher learning – must be quality.
“If any one of these blocks is of a poor standard, it will negatively affect the quality of graduates the system produces. This, in turn, affects their ability to be active economic agents that contribute to the growth and prosperity of the country.”
When she speaks of quality education, Makhanya refers to an education system that produces people who can contribute to the socio-economic prosperity of the country, and the world at large.
She feels that a quality focused education model should be rolled out to include all academic programmes of higher learning, coordinated through a national skill planning mechanism. The model should include both an academic track as well as practical industry experience, to be facilitated through commitment from the private, public and social sectors, who will be the providers of the vocational workplace training programmes.
Which is why Makhanya is so passionate about the work BANKSETA does in this space. . As one of South Africa’s best-performing Sector Education and Training Authorities, or SETAs, promoting skills development and transformation through youth development programmes, workplace learning and professional development programmes, Makhanya says its team lives by values of respect, professionalism, integrity, and stakeholder focus, as well as team work, embracing diversity and innovation.
This is particularly important as Makhanya points out we are already at the tail end of the fourth industrial revolution and some believe we have already entered the fifth industrial revolution, so it is time to latch on to the changing environment before we get left behind.
Working together, towards a financially viable future through quality education
It is a tough enough challenge for those of us who have benefitted from quality education, but for the average disadvantaged scholar looking to start a career, it is even tougher. Those from rural area,s in particular, have limited knowledge about the financial and alternative banking sector not to mention how to adapt to changing technologies. Fulfilling their academic requirement alone is a challenge as they struggle to access the training required, with most financial hubs based in urban metropolitan areas.
There is also misalignment between what institutions of higher learning teach and the practical skills required by the market. That i why BANKSETA embarks on extensive research and benchmarking and works closely with employers and institutions of higher learning to minimise this skills mismatch, effectively coordinating employers’ skills demands, with the supply of skills produced by educational institutions.
To this end, “BANKSETA has taken the bull by its horn in unleashing the capabilities of the country’s gems, therefore fulfilling its strategic goal of youth development.” emphasises Makhanya. BANKSETA has a long-standing working relationship with the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA), and its various youth education projects. For example, through SAICA’s Accounting Technician South Africa ([AT(SA)] designation, BANKSETA is involved in workplace programmes that help minimise the misalignment, as employers directly shape the skills development process and instil discipline, by opening up their workplaces for internships and training programmes for disadvantaged students in the Technical and Vocational Training (TVET) field.
In addition to helping the youth in the TVET space, BANKSETA and SAICA have also worked together to bring quality education to disadvantaged students through the Thuthuka Education Upliftment Fund’s various transformation initiative. Most recently, this partnership culminated in the SAICA accreditation of the University of Zululand. This project, which began in seven years ago, means that, as of 2018, any student with a UNIZULU BCom (Accounting Science) undergraduate degree should be eligible to study for their postgraduate degree (known as CTA, or equivalent) without needing to complete a bridging course or programme at a university that offers such SAICA-accredited programmes, provided they meet the entry requirements of that university. Through this capacity-building project, not only are the young people in the province being provided with quality education and the chance to become a CA(SA), but SAICA and BANKSETA contributing towards the National Development Plan’s transformation initiatives by increasing the number of black CAs(SA) in South Africa Uplift through informal educational opportunities as we enter the fifth industrial revolution
Makhanya recognises that it is difficult to sacrifice time for social causes when working in a capitalist system, but she is also living proof of the positive social contribution of CAs(SA) are making to the nation by measurably do their bit to make the world a better place: “We should look at society based on how it treats its most vulnerable people – the poor, the weak, the exploited and the oppressed. They’re usually not in a position to fend for themselves and are excluded from having meaningful participation in society. They’re most affected by social problems.”
“This is where active citizenry becomes important. We all need to play a part in resolving the problems that plague society. We can’t abdicate this role to the government, we need to be patriotic in our outlook, and contribute our time and resources to making South Africa a better country for all,” says Makhanya.
If Makhanya’s passion has inspired you to also work towards the SDG of inclusive, equitable quality education, focus on upskilling and training the unemployed, particularly in key demographics of youth, women, the rural population and people with disabilities. Offer internships, workplace programmes and on-the-job training opportunities, as this exposure dramatically increases the beneficiaries’ employability and self-confidence, while igniting their entrepreneurial spark.
Makhanya concludes: “We must continuously assess our own efforts in making this world a better place for all. We are only in a democratic society because previous generations stepped up and challenged the status quo. Those generations are accredited with bringing down the walls built by racial segregation policies and ushering us into a democracy. What will our generation be known for? Could we be the generation that brings about equitable economic emancipation for all?”
With a strong focus on enhancing the quality of education on offer, we may well be that generation.