Consensus is strong in SA on the need to close the “skills gap” that perpetuates inequality of income and poverty, and keeps economic growth in low gear. Families — parents and children — understand that getting a tertiary education is the best guarantee of escaping poverty and pursuing a decent life in today’s SA. Private companies and public institutions compete fiercely to attract the skills they desperately need, resulting in very high wages and very low unemployment rates for skilled workers. Compared with workers without tertiary education, wage earners holding a university degree can reasonably expect to earn R15,000 more a month, with a 99% chance of being employed. So, it’s no wonder we see long, winding queues outside universities at the beginning of every academic year, such as seen in the footage of the University of Venda in Limpopo and other institutions in February. Encouraged by the new policy that provides free tertiary education announced late in 2017, even more st...

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