Flashmobs are usually fun. But this one was slightly more serious than a bunch of kids suddenly bursting into song and dance in a mall. On Wednesday, students in graduation garb took to the streets of Alice in the Eastern Cape for a #HireAGraduate flash mob.
Pictures on social media show them holding up placards during a peaceful demonstration.
— Mpinga (@SipheMacanda) February 22, 2017
Graduates from universities and TVET institutions in the province gathered under the same banner – independent of SRCs or other student organisations – to make their voices heard about the bleak job situation graduates find themselves in.
Wandisile Sixoto, currently pursuing postgraduate study in the department of Agricultural Economics and Extension at the University of Fort Hare, says the aim of the protest is to raise awareness about the continuing unemployment of the province’s graduates. “One serious concern that graduates have is that of dead-end internships. Graduates are frustrated with the way internships prepare them for work, but hardly ever give way to permanent employment.”
Sixoto says it is not satisfactory to have to follow one internship with another for a number of years, earning the same low stipend, especially if the graduate in question is also the breadwinner at home.
Sisonke Mlamla, a graduate of Fort Hare and of Walter Sisulu University, says that he studied further after completing his Bachelor of Applied Communication degree, “for fear of not being employed”. But it turns out adding to his qualifications was not the answer, as he is still without work. Mlamla is frustrated that there are government posts held by people who are not qualified, while he and her fellow graduates sit at home with their certificates. He says the situation is not inspiring at all.
Tweets using the hashtag #HireAGraduate and placards at the protest itself resounded the same sentiment: education may be the key to success, but once graduates have the keys, the man has changed the locks. There is much frustration and disillusionment regarding the value of having a degree when it doesn’t result in economic upliftment.
— Nomkhitha Oyo (@nana_oyo) February 21, 2017
Sixoto mentioned other negative effects of unemployment, such as rising crime rates, drug abuse and the increasing occurrence of transactional relationships, as people try any means available to make a living. Mlamla has seen one of her peers resorting to bribery and still not securing a job, despite having spent the money. “Why is our world so cruel?” he asks.
These graduates would like to see more support for the highly qualified unemployed youth from the government. They want government to help graduates who start their own businesses by providing resources to sustain them. “We need projects, doors to be opened for us as graduates,” says Mlamla.
He also believes that government should be offering long-term solutions: “How can you fund poor students at varsity, yet there are no employment or business opportunities [after graduation]?”
— #Hire_a_graduate (@anitamhlana) February 22, 2017
The #HireAGraduate protesters are not seeking “special treatment” from government. They only hope to raise awareness about the unemployment issue, and encourage discussions about the way forward for graduates. They are planning a march to the Eastern Cape premier’s office early next week.