International Education Day is a day to celebrate the power of education to change lives and build a better future for all. Let’s be honest, how many times did we feel that school can be too much of an effort? Who didn’t dream of ditching class and spending the day in front of Netflix with a hot cup of cocoa?  But the truth is that education is one of the most important things we can give ourselves and others. It opens doors to new opportunities and helps us understand the world around us.

Basic Mathematics and literacy skills are fundamental for a person’s personal and professional development as well as for the overall economic growth of a country. The state of basic mathematics and literacy in South Africa is of huge concern. According to the UN, in 2020, over 617 million youth worldwide lacked basic mathematics and literacy skills. The statistics show that a large proportion of learners need to reach minimum proficiency levels. For example, The Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Education Quality (SACMEQ) report of 2017 indicated that South Africa is amongst the worst performers in mathematics and science in the region. The report shows that only 37% of Grade 6 learners in South Africa can perform basic mathematical operations compared to an average of 63% in the region.

The poor state of education in South Africa is not only numbers, graphs, and statistics of bad performance; it affects the high unemployment rate. The unemployment rate in South Africa is higher than the world average. The latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QFLS), published by Statistics South Africa, shows that the official rate for unemployment is 32.9% in the third quarter of 2022. This is one of the highest unemployment rates in the world! Additionally, the youth unemployment rate in South Africa is particularly high, with nearly half of all young people aged 15 to 34 unemployed.

Education not only increases the chances of finding employment but also leads to better quality jobs and higher wages.  According to the South Africa Labour Market report, on average, those with a tertiary education earn more than twice as much as those with only primary education. In addition, the report states that the unemployment rate for professionals and managers is around 1%.

But here’s the good news, whether you are a student, teacher, or someone who cares about the future of the world, you can, in your own way, invest in education. For example, investing your time or donating to a non-profit organisation, such as ORT SA, an educational NGO that has impacted the lives of thousands of people in South Africa by making people employable by implementing education and skills development initiatives. Collaboration is key. Together we can help build a brighter future for all.

So let’s celebrate education, get off the couch, switch off Netflix, take your hot cocoa, and open a book or learn something new!

International Day of Education was established in 2018 by the U.N. General Assembly. It is observed annually on January 24th.

Join us at the Launch of the ORT SA Career Hub on the 15th of February where we will explore the importance of keeping learning and also get insight on how to do it better. Details will follow on our social media and Ort SA website.