Correct subject choices are the beginning of a career trajectory

Sheetal Bhoola has a PhD and 2 M.A degrees in the Social Sciences. She has been the recipient of awards and scholarships. She is a lecturer and researcher at The University of Zululand, and the director at StellarMaths South Africa.

Sheetal Bhoola has a PhD and 2 M.A degrees in the Social Sciences. She has been the recipient of awards and scholarships. She is a lecturer and researcher at The University of Zululand, and the director at StellarMaths South Africa.

Published Feb 2, 2024



South Africa has a total of 26 public universities with the capacity to enrol just over 1 million students annually, a projection that includes returning students amid their degrees.

In January last year, just under 210 000 students enrolled at universities as first-year students. Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges enrolled nearly half a million learners nationally in 2023, but these statistics exclude so many others who passed the Grade 12 NSC exams but were denied access to these institutions.

Key reasons for the denial of admission include low pass marks and inappropriate school subject selections. It is perceived that schools located in rural areas, which are usually ranked Quintile 1 to 3, don’t offer certain subjects, such as maths and English as a first language, because they do not have teachers.

Inevitably, the learners are negatively impacted, and there is little awareness of how the lack of access to these subjects prohibits entry to specific qualifications.

Dr Blade Nzimande, the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, highlighted in January 2023 that the minimal requirement for many degrees that are categorised as scarce skills is a 60% pass in maths.

Entry to study within the scarce skills sectors, such as the sciences (life and health), education and engineering, have a minimal requisite of English as a first language and maths. Often, school learners are not fully informed or advised as to which subjects are important and aligned with which qualifications.

This information is essential if our collective aim is to uplift all our youth in South Africa. Ideally, parents and learners need to be aware, at the onset of Grade 8, of the opportunities and limitations of the varying subjects selected.

The dissemination of this information needs to be prioritised and timeous so that our youth can be proactive in developing their future careers.

An academic research study published in 2021, authored by Hlamulo Mbhiza from the University of the Witwatersrand, indicated that mathematics education is far more concentrated in urban areas of South Africa and consistently ignored in rural areas.

He further explains that the research conducted in rural schools in relation to maths teaching and learning is sparse and inadequate (Mbhiza, 2021). We can assume that there is a lack of availability of skilled educators in maths in rural schools, coupled with minimal facilities and resources in general.

The need for monitoring and evaluation should be prioritised as it will help identify the challenges rural schools face and determine their needs. This will guide interventions appropriately. Matriculants from these schools have a challenge gaining entry to universities and to the formal economy as employees.

Students who are declined acceptance into tertiary educational institutions contribute towards the staggering 52% of unemployed youth in South Africa. Statistics South Africa recorded that approximately 4.6 million youths were unemployed in December last year.

These statistics also include skilled and educated graduates with qualifications in the scarce skills sectors, such as human health, education, life and physical sciences, animal sciences and veterinary sciences.

Public universities and colleges cannot absorb these matriculants, leaving many of them stranded as to how to develop themselves further post-schooling. Matriculants can consider learnerships or internships, which will allow them to develop skills and practical knowledge in a career they are interested in. The opportunity to be employed at a very young age allows you to develop personally, strengthen communication skills and become financially literate.

Another option is for matriculants to equip themselves to be skilled in informational technology and computing skills. Last, they should consider rewriting Grade 12. This will allow them to reapply for your desired qualification with improved marks on your NSC certificate.

Bhoola has a PhD and two MA degrees in the Social Sciences. She is a lecturer and researcher at the University of Zululand and the director at StellarMaths South Africa. Visit www.

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