Witsies teach Soweto learners about the path less travelled

PLAN A: Wits Masters students part of the non-profit organisation Rethink Africa hosted a career day at Morris Isaacson Secondary School in Soweto yesterday.  They identified a need to make information about career options more accessible to grade nine and 10 learners from underprivileged areas.  The day served to give learners guidance in their subject choices to further their tertiary education.   Photo: Lameez Omarjee  ​

PLAN A: Wits Masters students hosted a career day at Morris Isaacson Secondary School in Soweto yesterday after they identified the need to make information about career options more accessible to learners from underprivileged areas.
Photo: Lameez Omarjee

A group of Witsies spent part of their weekend with learners at the Morris Isaacson Secondary School yesterday to try and expose the youngsters to a wider range of careers options.

The Masters in Development Theory and Policy students, who are also part of the non-profit organisation, Rethink Africa, visited the school in Soweto to “express the broadness of the choices” available to grade nine and 10 learners.

“Normally people are told you can either be an accountant, engineer or physicist but there are other careers that people never get a taste of,” said Witsie Ayabonga Cawe.

Empowering choices

Cawe said one of the most important things of the initiative is to share information not normally accessible to students of Soweto.  “One of the biggest challenges is that most people don’t see themselves going to university.  They don’t have resources to get there and don’t have role models in their social network who have been to university and done so successfully,” he said.

The purpose of the day’s event was to “empower young people in local communities, specifically in the underprivileged areas,” said one of the organisers, Nompumelelo Melaphi.

The event, in partnership with the School of Economics and Business Sciences, included up to 135 high school students from Emshukantambo, Morris Isaacson, Immaculate and Reasoma schools.

“Us coming up here and actually giving career advice and informing them of ways to finance their studies is very useful in them planning ahead.” 

Witsie Siya Biniza said it was important to host the event as the students were entering the most “decisive year of their high school career.”

“Us coming up here and actually giving career advice and informing them of ways to finance their studies is very useful in them planning ahead.”

This is the second year the event has taken place and there are hopes to expand it to the Eastern Cape and other provinces, according to Masters student Gillian Chigumira.

The learners were encouraged to study in all fields, including science, arts and commerce. Economists, doctors and forensic anthropologists also addressed the learners as part of the day’s programme.

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National minimum wage not enough to reduce inequality and poverty

WARMING UP: Speakers, Ayabonga Cawe and Jane Barrett share a quick chat about youth unemployment ahead of their discussion at the dialogue held at the Origins Centre on Tuesday, July 22. Photo: Lameez Omarjee

WARMING UP: Speakers Ayabonga Cawe and Jane Barrett share a quick chat about youth unemployment ahead of their discussion at the dialogue held at the Origins Centre on Tuesday, July 22. Photo: Lameez Omarjee

 

A national minimum wage will not make a difference in inequality and poverty in South Africa, according to Ayabonga Cawe. Cawe was speaking at a policy dialogue hosted by Young Economists for Africa last night at the Wits  Origins Centre which focused on the need for a national minimum wage policy.

A “national minimum wage should be accompanied with other social protection measures,” explained the Rethink Africa chairperson. These include a social wage subsidised by government to provide free housing, free health care and free education. These measures would then affect savings, investments and consumption.

Asset transfers are another option through the restoration of the ownership of land, the economy and access to markets in the economy for the previously disadvantaged.

“People can’t build (their) lives without assets,” Cawe said.

“People are employed but they are still caught in a poverty trap”

He also said that the national minimum wage will never be effective unless backlogs in development are dealt with and productivity is increased. He stressed that people need an incentive, possibly even a stake in profits, to be productive.

Despite arguments that a national minimum wage would give the country a bad image and may deter investments, Cawe defended the proposal. “People are employed but they are still caught in a poverty trap”. A national minimum wage will allow for social reproduction he said.

Jane Barrett, policy research officer at the South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union also supported the proposed national mimumum wage and told Wits Vuvuzela, it is necessary “to bring simplicity and regularity to the regulation of wages at the bottom.”

According to Barrett, a national minimum wage is more effective in reducing inequality, than reducing the high pay for executives.

Taku Fundira, senior researcher at Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute, suggested that “social protection policies should be strengthened.”

He told Wits Vuvuzela that South Africans should consider a basic income grant as an option.

In South Africa there is an “unemployed generation aged between 18 and 59” that will never receive a certain or reasonable income until the age of retirement, when they would qualify for a pension grant. He explained that a minimum wage could absorb unemployment.

Fundira also encouraged good infrastructure, a powerful labour force and a flawless trade flow to attract investment. “This is a redistribution policy, we take away from business to empower lower income earners. The policy should be clear and transparent and enforceable.”

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