By Maboni Malose Mmatli
“Post 15/03: SCIENTIST PRODUCTION GRADE A-C REF NO: 26/2016
Requirements: “A BSc (Hons) degree in Plant Sciences/ Agriculture/ Botany or Genetics. Three years’ post qualification experience, etc.”
This is an excerpt from a government circular for employment. An example of one of many. The point I question is the number of post graduate years of experience that is required. Why is it that experience is a requisite for employment whereas it was the government that educated us through a system they trust and believe in? In my view, it is because of this requirement that our country is lagging behind in terms of innovation and development. The newly graduated, now unemployed youth in South Africa are sitting at home with their qualifications catching dust on old furniture. Their qualifications serve more as decoration and bragging chips than as a means of empowerment for those who come from underprivileged communities.
According to Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), 25.2% of South African youth are unemployed and Statistician General Dr Lehohla said that “more of these unemployed are coloureds and blacks, which causes them to be involved in crime”. The potential of these unemployed youth needs to be unleashed so as to thrust our country and continent to a meaningfully new and higher level. It is unfortunate because the barrier between us and employment is the same thing standing between our country and development – “Experience”!
The world, by its very nature, is a dynamic place. To keep up with it, to even lead its dynamism, we need our young people to be able to freely present their ideas, lead and flourish in all areas of responsibility including that of the state. Jiddu Krishnamurti once said; “(a)ny society that does not respond to the new challenges of a group or an individual obviously decays”. It’s either we respond with new ideas, or we perish. I choose the former. The problem with the requirement of experience for a job is that it addresses new challenges with old “solutions”. I believe that the world’s dynamic challenges cannot be successfully addressed by the same approach. As a country, we have tried this route of “experience” for two decades and the results have been the same. As I type this, I remember the words of the famous Scientist, Albert Einstein, who said, “(i)nsanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. I believe, in the utmost of terms, that we are not an insane nation. We cannot and should not continue doing things conventionally as accepted by many. We ought to be distinct and different. The fact that an approach is“working” and has been for a long time (which off-course is relative) does not mean that there is no better alternative. Neither should it be the reason why new ideas are shunned and young people isolated.
In natural Sciences, snakes shed their skin to allow for further growth and to remove parasites that may have attached to their old skin. This is done for health and development reasons. A snake wouldn’t go out searching for a skin that has been used for two years or more“because it knows better and is ready”. For many trees, winter is an unfavourable season and as it approaches, the trees shed their leaves to conserve water and survive the cold, dry air of the season. Afterwards, new leaves emerge – leaves that are ready to give life to the tree after an intense season. South Africa (as a tree), is going through its winter and the youth are the new leaves. Let our youth emerge and absorb the sunlight for their growth, survival and development. Through the requirement of“experience” we are only prolonging winter to a twelve months season every year.
If the government really thinks that the education they give us best equips us for the practical work environment and industries, it should accordingly do away with this impediment of “experience”. It should unlearn that the old have superior knowledge and learn that it is possible to redefine old accepted phenomena. That what is referred to as “knowledge” is nothing more than what was learnt (ages ago) and committed to memory, only to be accessed to address challenges faced.
These new challenges need fresh minds, free of conditioning and “experience”. Minds that are ready to redefine concepts and phenomena. It will be the youth that does this, under conducive environments for growth and development. I know we are ready, the time is now. You have armed us with knowledge, now let us go fight the war against underdevelopment, poverty and unemployment. Give us space of real influence and we will lead this country forward. Unless the cause is purely ageist!