South Africa: Prepare students better, says minister

Pretoria – South African universities have been collectively challenged to produce graduates that are able to rise up and provide solutions to the challenges that face the developing world.

“We are concerned that most of the students produced by our universities are not grounded in the developmental challenges that face our country.

“Our students are being taught to reproduce some of the very ideas that today have led to the current global economic crisis that we face, and are not adequately equipped to … (produce) ideas that are more appropriate to our own challenges and those facing the South in general,” said Higher Education and Training Minister, Blade Nzimande.

He was addressing delegates on Tuesday at the Annual Higher Education Learning and Training Association of Southern Africa (HELTASA) Conference, which is being held at the University of Limpopo.

Nzimande stressed the importance of curricula transformation in order to arm graduates with the skills necessary to navigate the realities and challenges that exist in today’s landscape.

He called on universities to make use of the support that was available in the Department of Higher Education and Training for this objective to be fulfilled.

“Our department is prepared to support and foster co-operation around best practice in [higher education] … We would like to [encourage collaboration] rather than just competition amongst our South African institutions, so that we can effectively learn from one another,” said Nzimande.

The minister acknowledged that education was a critical tool for self-upliftment and to help the country meet its developmental objectives. He bemoaned the fact that access to universities was often limited, and that they were not sufficiently prepared to deal with the type of students they had to groom into tomorrow’s leaders.

A great deal of the country’s students comes from under-prepared backgrounds and are often not well-equipped to deal with the academic challenges posed by university curricula.

Nzimande called on universities to create settings that ensured no student was left behind.

“We want … lecturers that are adequately developed to respond to the specific needs of a diverse range of students and not just a select few.

“It is a fallacy to assume that by virtue of advanced study in a particular field, someone automatically becomes a good teacher … Academics at our institutions have to recognise that improving academic competency is a critical factor in improving success,” said the minister.

The conference, held under the theme “Higher Education Development: Academic Excellence Critiques, Opportunities & Challenges”, runs from 23 – 25 November.

Source – BuaNews