A number sums up the parlous state of our country’s vocational training system: 2%. A mere 2% of students entering technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges qualify in the minimum period of three years. Barely a third graduate and many of those who do, wait years for their certificates. How many of them get jobs is unknown because the government does not track their progress. These colleges should be the answer to the country’s twin problems of youth unemployment — which stands at more than 50% — and an artisan shortage, which has resulted in companies importing welders and carpenters from as far away as China and the Philippines. The government has been pouring money into the system. It will spend R6.92bn on the 50 public TVET colleges in 2017 and the allocation will rise to R8.59bn by 2019. The vast majority of students secure bursaries from the government-funded National Student Financial Aid Scheme that they do not have to repay. The government is therefore...

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