Dr Salim Vally, a senior researcher and director of the Centre for Education Rights and Transformation at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), said ignoring economic and social conditions, whose role and impact is just as influential, stifles attempts to finding a solution. In a report co-written by Vally with Enver Motala and Carol Spree, both also from UJ, the three wrote: “We know that knowledge, skills and competencies are important for all societies, critically important even, for the well-being of nations.
“Reducing the discussion about knowledge and skills to its use for employment in a market dominated (by) economic systems is a serious limitation on how the question of skills can and must be understood.”
“No capitalist economy in the world or in any period of its history, outside the periods of worldwide war, has been able to provide full employment in the economy.”
The reports found that narrowing down the discussions skills for the economy is also problematic because it places the blame for the lack of skills and knowledge on the poor themselves or on the government.
“Blaming the government alone too is disingenuous since business itself was hugely complicit throughout the past decades for erecting the structural barriers to high-quality education for the working class and the poor.”
Vally maintained that there were serious challenges that needed to be addressed in the education system, but focus must also be placed on economic and social factors.
“If you have a big company and have retrenched some people, you can’t blame education for that.”