17th May2012

The ‘useless’ degree

by admin

Under the strain of the economic times, with a second recession looming over our heads and recited as a warning for us to behave, save, budget and look to the growing fields and industries to absorb the influx of the newly unemployed, the questions and doubts of what to study – and if what we have chosen to study will result in employment – are ever-pressing.

Students are anxiously directed to study in the fields of engineering, law, commerce and finance, believing that with these fields they will ultimately find employment with a decent pay cheque, using this as their mantra to get them through their years of study. Are the results obscured then or are the golden children of the nation truly employed and earning high salaries, while we sit in the background as the black sheep?

Coming from the workplace and moving into an institution of higher learning, I can say with surety that this is not the case. While there do seem to be more jobs available in the above-mentioned fields, availabilities are limited in number, leaving the rest that have graduated in these fields with little opportunities elsewhere to go. While these fields are taken more seriously, and have a stricter regiment in studying, accompanied by harsher time tables, many graduates are unable to function and integrate outside of these communities. An engineer who fails to find employment is unlikely to integrate sufficiently into a ‘mundane’ environment. Hence, the stereotype of the engineer who is unable to hold a conversation outside of his field of study emerges.

This is where the ‘useless’ degree serves a better purpose. Through studying a BA in the Humanities, the most valuable thing you learn is how to learn. This may seem strange but BA students are not fed, prepped and prized like the golden children. Rather, it is a matter of sink or swim, with the students having to navigate and find the answers, often on their own. Due to the more relaxed routine and time-table, they have to implement self-discipline and time-management. It is these traits that serve the BA student better than other professions, allowing them to choose a job that – even if they have not been trained for as such – they will be able to adapt to and ultimately find the solutions to most problems, albeit often using google, wiki-pedia and social networks to their advantage, thus exploiting the tools that they have access to. The key to surviving in the current economic climate is to be adaptable and perhaps a bit entrepreneurial which the BA graduate encompasses. It is with this in mind that I would hire a BA student over other degrees, as just as the BA student needs to be adaptable in the current economic climate, so do businesses and their employees if they are to survive.

Erin Mc Luckie


28th Sep2011

As I take the next step…

by admin

As I’m sure is the case for most of my colleagues about to fold over their undergraduate years, an unfamiliar word dominating my thoughts lately is employment and well in a phrase, growing up. This past weekend I learnt that an old high school friend had bought her first car. Another had gotten engaged and still another gave birth. And so the list that makes up South African Statistics went. All the while I prayed I wouldn’t be part of the 24% of unemployed South Africans come next year. The Stats SA labour force report (February 2011) did little to raise my spirits. As the story goes, the bulk of the 4.1 million unemployed in the country are young: check, black: check, female: check again.

Nevertheless, my friend who recently bought her first self-satisfying automobile falls under the same category so here goes one for representation. Well she also just (last year) completed her undergraduate B.Com Finance degree and the devil on my shoulder whispers: ‘told you to choose a more capitalist-friendly degree’. Thank God for the Sunday school teaching: ‘the devil is a liar’.

Hence I’ve been scanning through the classifieds section of every news publication in every medium I could get hold of for a good eight months now. The final year-undergrad experience has been much like the final months of matric for me. It’s that jumping off a plane and hoping there’s a parachute-kind-of-feeling. As it turns out, society designed an ideal path for me: go to school, university, get a job and get your family out of poverty. As I go through life, I am constantly reminded of the path.

However the paradox of the tale is that right next to this staunchly engraved idea of a path, the daily, lived experiences of members in the said categories (black, young, female and working class etc) stealthy remind me that the ideal is one filled with many fallacies. Even though the unspoken truth is that capitalism is strategically structured in a way that ensures that the poor remain poor and the rich get richer, we are still encouraged and assured that if we work hard enough we should obtain an advanced level of wealth which is in essence what we should desire. The working class, young, black woman’s life is the juxtaposition between what she is most likely to become but hopefully will not and what she is most likely not to become but is supposed to strive for. In the words of Karl Marx: “Political Economy regards the proletarian … like a horse, he must receive enough to enable him to work. It does not consider him, during the time when he is not working, as a human being. It leaves this to criminal law, doctors, religion, statistical tables, politics, and the beadle.”

Matshidiso Omega Moagi


26th May2011

Made in China

by admin

Africa’s fragile economy is being destructed by the gigantic Chinese market. The Chinese market brings along affordable merchandise that many people can afford. The majority of African people are poor and do not have jobs, so they will always opt for the cheaper products, which the Chinese offer.

In high school, my Geography teacher asked us which country is the most powerful country in the world. That was four years back. We all said the US. He gave us an exercise that did not need us to move to find the answer. As he went to make himself some coffee, he asked us to write a list of all the places where everything we had on us at that moment was made: our bags, pencil cases, stationary, school uniform, cell phones – the list continued. When he came back, he had to deal with my anger at the thought that my Billabong backpack was fong-kong. Another student shared my frustration.

But it went beyond the point that more than 95% of everything that every student had put together was MADE IN CHINA. In some cases it was written MADE IN SOUTH AFRICA with material used MADE IN CHINA. Ouch!!!! “I always thought that China just wanted to be popular”, the class clown announced. While others were just amazed, some were deep in thought trying to come up with all kind of philosophies to explain this phenomenon.

China’s world domination has affected African countries the most. With governments finding themselves in catch-22 situations. In South Africa’s case, the Chinese market has poisoned the informal South African market, the most progressive and sustainable by importing Chinese-made products and selling them very inexpensively. With the textile industry suffering the most, the Chinese have identified an opportunity for cheaper clothing for the lower class of South Africa and dominate it. One can now find the traditional Sotho ‘shweshwe’ dress usually made by seamstresses ‘ekasi’ at Chinese shops. Of course it is lower quality but our tailors are finding it hard to compete with these cheap Chinese commodities.

One cannot ignore the fact that the Chinese have also nourished our economy. China is South Africa’s biggest export market, with textile and minerals leading. However, it is ironic how South African producers’ textile is exported to China; just to go and for us then to buy the textile-turned-into-clothes from China. As much as this is not as beneficial for South Africa, it is good for our textile industry. If the government was to address the immense influx of Chinese people in the country, there would be big consequences.

The Chinese are very good for our economy and for that reason we should maintain good relations with them. However, we cannot deny the fact that they are misusing our good nature. The Chinese have invaded our country and taken over our informal market, the biggest job creator in the country. The informal market is the nucleus of income for the uneducated, lower-class community and the influx of Chinese goods has affected them greatly. Our democratic government represents the elite minority when it comes to decision making because of the power mantra involved.

The elite minority of the country is sustained by the economy, so it is only logical that they would by all means protect the economy. We can also not deny that the formal economy is the one that pays tax which then comes back to take care of our people. Even so we cannot deny the fact that the Chinese invasion of our country has more negative impacts in comparison to positive effects.

What is a government in such a situation to do? Should the Chinese go, or should they stay?

Aima Jwalane Majola is a student majoring in Media Studies and Psychology at the University of the Witwatersrand.

16th May2011

Crime in South Africa: top contributors

by admin

Is it possible for the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the crime rate of a country to be equally high or low at the same time? Although many critique the use of a country’s GDP in the measuring of the economic wealth of a country and the standard of living of its residents, it continues to be widely accepted and highly effective. South Africa’s crime rate will remain high because the country’s GDP is very low at the moment. This relates to South Africa’s high rate of unemployment which currently stands at 49% as well as the high percentage of citizens who at present live under the poverty line (52%).

The link between South Africa’s low GDP per capita and high crime rate cannot be ignored. With analysts and experts declaring crime as the aftermath of unemployment, even criminals agree. South Africans are the biggest supporters of crime, not just by buying stolen goods because they are cheaper or by overlooking a crime because it does not involve us, but by creating more and more unemployment.

How? By purchasing foreign-produced products more often than our own. What many South Africans do not realize is that by buying products made in other countries, we greatly contribute to the high crime rate in this country. If more South Africans dressed up in Thula Sindi, wore Erol Arendz shoes, accessorized with some Jenna Clifford, while adding a little colour with some Bassie make up, these companies would grow, employ more people and raise the country’s GDP. This will in turn benefit the whole country.

Yes, it is often the case that South African products are not of the same quality as some of the ones produced in other countries. But it is also true that those products only improved in quality because of the support they received from those buying them. If more of us bought original Lira albums, she would make more money and be able to produce better quality music with advanced recording systems, experienced producers, and better management.

The case with most South African households is that they consists of an above-the-average number of members with orphaned nieces and nephews and unemployed aunts and their kids, being looked after by one breadwinner. Social ills such as absent fathers, bad quality education, unstable communities, over-crowdedness and personal family affairs will only result in an increase in crime because a hungry man will do anything to get a loaf of bread.

The Chinese market consumed the South African market; everything is MADE IN CHINA. Even the trade in local traditional wear has been taken over by cheaper Chinese commodities, leaving local seamstresses stranded as the lower working class now appreciates cheaper products but hereby creating more and more unemployment.

My pledge: I pledge that I will not complain about South Africa’s high crime rate, even if I get hurt because I contribute to it with all my MADE IN CHINA, AUSTRALIA, INDIA products – the list continues. I am part of a whole and what I do impacts me indirectly, so my actions contribute to many things around me. So South Africa’s high crime rate is my fault and I shall accept the consequences of my actions.

PS: I am not condoning crime. What I am saying is that we must look at the bigger picture, evaluate how we contribute to crime before blaming everything on the government system.

Aima Jwalane Majola is a student majoring in Media Studies and Psychology at the University of the Witwatersrand.

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