Naledi Pandor. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

Higher education and training minister Naledi Pandor has questioned her predecessor Blade Nzimande’s plans to reduce the number of Sector Education and Training Authorities (Setas) and instructed her officials to come up with a better proposal to improve their performance, it emerged in parliament on Wednesday.

The Setas are intended to bridge SA’s skills deficit and boost employment, but they have been widely criticised for their inefficiency, corruption and maladministration.

They were allocated R13.5bn for the 2018/2019 fiscal year, 16.8% of the R80.5bn allocated to the higher education vote.

On Wednesday morning, the department of higher education & training’s Maliviwe Lumka told MPs that the department was proposing a reduction of the number of Setas from 21 to 15, as part of broader reforms to the postschool education and training system to make the Setas more efficient.

MERGERS ARE NOT THE SOLUTION TO THE CHALLENGES CONFRONTING THE SETAS.

These proposals were published in the Government Gazette for public comment on Wednesday and include merging the Agriculture Seta with the Food and Beverage Manufacturing Industry Seta; merging the Financial and Accounting Services Seta with the Banking and Insurance Setas; merging the Setas dealing with local government; and merging those dealing with construction.

However, shortly after Lumka’s presentation to parliament’s portfolio committee on higher education and training, Pandor said she was sending her officials back to the drawing board.

"I have said to the department we need to think more carefully. Mergers are not the solution to the challenges that are confronting us.

"There are serious problems of governance, poor regulation, [and] there’s too much independence with determining the use of funding," the minister said.

The Setas needed clearer and better rules governing how they were run, including the process of appointing CEOs. Pandor said the relationship between many of the Setas and the private sector needed to be improved, to bolster the chances of people finding jobs.

While the financial, retail, wholesale, and manufacturing sector Setas had built strong relationships with industry, many other Setas had a "very tenuous" relationship with the labour market and poor skills planning ability, she said.

MPs heard that only 31% of SA’s youth 15 to 34 years old were employed in 2015.

Just 13% of the youth were in the postschool education and training system, most of whom were at universities and Technical and Vocational Education Training colleges, said Diane Parker, the department’s deputy director-general for universities.

"This really is our challenge: how do we provide sufficient opportunities for all of those people aged between 15 and 34 — and other citizens — to be effectively educated and trained to become economically active," Parker said.

kahnt@businesslive.co.za

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