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Phumla Mkize | 23rd Jan 2023

Friends Kanetso Lekhisa and Thozamile Funeka, from Commtech Comprehensive School in Free State, are among the country’s top matric achievers./Phumla Mkize

While best friends Kanetso Lekhisa and Thozamile Funeka, who have been dreaming about the day the national spotlight will be fixed on them, were celebrating as they joined the prestigious group of 34 top matric performers in the country, another pair of friends, Ofentse Zulu and Mmakgotso Tshabalala, are living their worst nightmare as unemployed graduates.

Lekhisa and Funeka, the 18-year-olds from Commtech Comprehensive School in Free State are looking forward to university. Lekhisa, is number two in the country in technical science, while Funeka came third in technical maths. Lekhisa wants to study architecture, while Funeka has his sights on mechanical engineering.

Zulu and Tshabalala, the 23-year-old graduates from Vaal University of Technology, were knocking on doors this week in the northern Joburg suburbs of Rosebank, Parktown North, Craighall Park along Jan Smuts Avenue, looking for jobs.

The duo, who completed their diplomas in 2021 and graduated in 2022, have not been able to find an internship, learnership or a job of any kind. Zulu has an advanced diploma in marketing and Tshabalala a diploma in marketing.

“At this point, I will take anything. I’m not picky. I will even take a job as a cleaner just to get a foot in the door,” said Tshabalala.

Both Zulu and Tshabalala are first generation graduates in their families. Zulu, the eldest among seven children, said he thought passing matric with good marks and qualifying for university was astepping stone to a better life.

“I started applying for jobs while I was still at varsity. I even went on to do my advanced diploma while I was tutoring other students,” he said.

“My mother is a single parent, I’m the first of her kids to go to university. She encourages me not to give up, but deep down I sometimes feel she has lost as much hope as I have,” he said.

Tshabalala, who is from Middleburg and came to Gauteng for the week to job hunt with her friend, said she has two siblings and her inability to help her family is taking a strain on her mental health.

“I can’t get a job because I don’t have experience, I can’t get experience because I can’t get a job.”

According to Statistics South Africa Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the third quarter of last year, youth aged 15-34 years recorded the highest unemployment rates, with unemployment in the 15-24 years group at 59.6% and for the 25-34-year-olds at 40.5%.

Though unemployment among graduates, which is at 10.7%, is lower than the national official unemployment rate of 32.9%, it is cold comfort for Zulu and Tshabalala.

“When I finished matric, qualified for university, finished my qualification in record time, I thought I was ticking all the boxes for a bright future,” said Tshabalala. Lekhisa and Funeka had a whirlwind few days being hosted by the minister of basic education at a breakfast for top performers in Randburg, and being celebrated by the nation.

“We could not have done this without the help of our teachers, particularly our principal Motsamai Mofokeng,” said Funeka, who was accompanied by his mother Ncanyiwe Mojaki and sister Mookho Shai.

Lekhisa was flanked by his parents, Matshepiso and Tlotliso.

‘Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER’.


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