6 September 2023

In August this year the Department of Basic Education reported that over 279 000 students enrolled for the May/June matric examination rewrite. However, this represented only 60% of the candidates who were eligible to rewrite.

This is concerning as it potentially disadvantages a large number of young people from progressing to higher education or entry into the job market. The major contributor to intergenerational poverty, inequality and unemployment among young people is low levels of education and skills development.

South Africa places great emphasis on the attainment of a matric certificate for further education and job opportunities, and it is important to understand and address why many learners may not rewrite their matric exams. Some of these reasons may include resource and financial constraints, the need to seek employment, and academic difficulties. But many learners may simply not be aware about the option available to them to rewrite their matric exams.

South Africa’s emphasis on matric does not cater to the diverse needs, talents, interests and capacities of learners, and the education system needs to be reformed from a heavy reliance on high-stakes exams as the sole measure of achievement to become more inclusive. There are however available options to continue schooling or training if matric is failed, including the option to rewrite the exams. Some of these other options include:

Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Colleges:

TVET colleges offer a range of practical courses and qualifications that equip students with hands-on skills for specific industries. These institutions focus on trades, technical skills, and practical knowledge, providing a more direct pathway into the workforce. This option is particularly attractive for students who excel in practical, hands-on learning environments, or are interested in fields such as plumbing, electrical work, mechanics, and more.

To apply to one of the 50 registered TVET colleges in South Africa, all that is required is a Grade 9 certificate. Some of the fields of study that don’t require a matric include occupational health and safety, policing, forensics and investigation, project management, beauty therapy, childcare, basic computer studies, bookkeeping, accounting, workplace administration and secretarial studies.

Apprenticeships and Internships:

Apprenticeships and internships allow young South Africans to learn on the job while earning a stipend. These programs provide invaluable experience, networking opportunities, and skills development. Many industries, including hospitality, construction, and manufacturing, offer apprenticeship programmes that combine classroom learning with practical training.

Below are some resources to find internships:

Short-Term Skills Development Programmes:

Numerous institutions and organisations offer short-term skills development courses that focus on specific skills required by industries. These courses are designed to enhance employability by teaching practical skills quickly. Examples include computer programming, digital marketing, graphic design, and language proficiency courses.

Online Learning and E-Learning Platforms:

The digital age has made learning more accessible than ever. Online platforms offer a host of courses, from coding to business management, often at low cost or even for free.

Entrepreneurship and Startups:

For those with a passion for innovation and a drive to create their own opportunities, entrepreneurship could be a viable path. South Africa’s startup ecosystem has been growing steadily, with support from government initiatives and private investors. Young people can turn their ideas into reality by founding their own businesses and contributing to economic growth. Consider crowdfunding on platforms like Thundafund and the Angel Investment Network.

Non-profit Organisations and Community Engagement:

Some might find fulfilment by engaging in non-profit work or community initiatives. Volunteering and working with NGOs allow one to make a positive impact on society while developing essential soft skills such as communication, teamwork and problem-solving. Volunteering with an NGO could lead to further education or long-term employment.