Why BANKSETA’s Mia Makhanya is banking on a better educated future

There’s no denying that South Africa’s youth unemployment figures are dire, at 38.3% for those between 15 and 24 years old, according to Statistics South Africa’s Labour Market Quarter 1 2018 report. Their unemployment rate comparison for those in long-term unemployment has also jumped up from 59.4% in the third quarter of 2008 to 68.8% in the same quarter of 2018, with women and the youth the most affected.

That’s where BANKSETA  Board Chairperson, Nosipho  “Mia” Makhanya, steps up to the plate. She believes the Not in Education, Employment and Training (NEET) rate is a ticking time bomb as lack of experience and length of unemployment may well increase the vulnerabilities of young people in the labour market.

Yet, at just 35 years of age herself, Makhanya is the youngest person to ever hold a spot on the BANKSETA Board, and her passion for the UN’s fourth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of quality education shines through all she does. Here’s how the BANKSETA in particular is working to unravel those drastic unemployment figures, in providing better educational and entrepreneurial opportunities alike…

Makhanya’s is adamant that the youth should always be at the heart of South Africa’s economic agenda. She was taught to value education – whether formal or informal – from an early age, seeing it not just as a pathway to success – as a means of escaping poverty and attaining financial security – but also for its greater purpose of benefiting humankind, in changing the world we live in.

This ties in with her belief that education is the ‘gateway SDG’ through which all others can be achieved as it unlocks latent potential that would otherwise remain dormant, resulting in creative problem-solving that brings about societal change. That’s why Makhanya has used her own education to enhance the lives of those around her, by participating in social programmes and initiatives.

A good foundation of quality education means a better future for all

In addition to being a qualified Chartered Accountant and Financial Analyst, she also has a strong entrepreneurial spirit, and says her CA(SA) skills built a strong backbone that led her to leave the typical corporate working world at the end of 2014, for greater flexibility to help shape the country’s development through her Ngwenyama Yezulu financial consulting and advisory firm. Makhanya credits the chartered accountancy profession for providing not just a technical understanding of finances and systematic problem-solving thinking, but also a basis of good governance and ethical behaviour.

That in particular is why she’s passionate about the need for quality education at every stage, and her belief that every educational building block laid – from early childhood development through high school level, to institutions of higher learning – must be quality.

“If any one of these blocks is of a poor standard, it will negatively affect the quality of graduates the system produces. This in turn affects their ability to be active economic agents that contribute to the growth and prosperity of the country.”

When she speaks of quality education, Makhanya refers to an education system that produces people who can contribute to the socio-economic prosperity of the country, and the world at large.

She feels this quality education model should be expanded to all higher learning academic programmes through a national skill planning mechanism, with commitment from the private, public and social sectors, who will be the providers of the vocational workplace training programmes.

That’s where BANKSETA comes in. As one of SA’s best-performing Sector Education and Training Authorities or SETAs, promoting skills development and transformation through youth development programmes, workplace learning and professional development programmes, Makhanya says its team lives by values of respect, professionalism, integrity, and stakeholder focus, as well as team work, embracing diversity and innovation.

This is particularly important as Makhanya points out we are already at the tail end of the fourth industrial revolution and some believe we’ve already entered the fifth industrial revolution, so it’s time to latch on to the changing environment before we get left behind.

Working together, towards a financially viable future through quality education

After all, it’s a tough enough challenge for those of us who’ve benefitted from a quality education, but for the average disadvantaged scholar looking to start a career, it’s even tougher. Those from rural areas in particular have limited knowledge about the financial and alternative banking sector and adapting as technology does, so fulfilling the academic requirement alone is a challenge as they struggle to access the training required, with most financial hubs based in urban metropolitan areas.

There’s also misalignment between what institutions of higher learning teach and the practical skills required by the market. That’s why BANKSETA has embarked on extensive research and benchmarking and works closely with employers and institutions of higher learning to minimise this skills mismatch, effectively coordinating employers’ skills needs through demand, with the supply of skills produced by educational institutions.

Workplace programmes also minimise the misalignment, as employers directly shape the skills development process by opening up their workplaces for internships and training programmes. But taking a step back, there’s still a need for better education about tertiary education opportunities overall for disadvantaged students, especially in the Technical and Vocational Training (TVET) field.

To this end, “BANKSETA has taken the bull by its horn in unleashing the capabilities of the country’s gems, therefore fulfilling its strategic goal of youth development.” emphasises Mia. BANKSETA has a long-standing working relationship with the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA), responsible for the Thuthuka bursary funding transformation initiative, which helps academically strong learners who aspire to become chartered accountants meet their dream, as well as the University of Technologies’ capacity-building project, which trains accounting technicians and integrates them in workplaces for six months.

Uplift through informal educational opportunities as we enter the fifth industrial revolution

Makhanya recognises that it’s difficult to sacrifice time for social causes when working in a capitalist system, but that’s exactly what drives her: “We should look at society based on how it treats its most vulnerable people – the poor, the weak, the exploited and the oppressed. They’re usually not in a position to fend for themselves and excluded from having meaningful participation in society, so they’re most affected by social problems.”

“This is where active citizenry becomes important. We all need to play a part in resolving the problems that plague society. We can’t abdicate this role to the government, we need to be patriotic in our outlook, and contribute our time and resources to making South Africa a better country for all,” says Makhanya.

If Makhanya’s passion has inspired you to also work towards the SDG of inclusive, equitable quality education, focus on upskilling and training the unemployed, particularly in key demographics of youth, women, the rural population and people with disabilities. Offer internships, workplace programmes and on-the-job training, as this exposure dramatically increases the beneficiaries’ employability, while igniting their entrepreneurial spark.

Makhanya concludes: “We must continuously assess our own efforts in making this world a better place for all. We are only in a democratic society because previous generations stepped up and challenged the status quo. That generation is accredited with bringing down the walls built by racial segregation policies and ushering us into a democracy. What will our generation be known for? Could we be the generation that brings about equitable economic emancipation for all?”

With a strong focus on enhancing the quality of education on offer, we may well be that generation.

For Media Related Queries contact: Busisiwe Lubisi

BANKSETA Marketing and Communications Manager

Email: Busisiwel@bankseta.org.za

Direct Land Line: 011 564 5300

Mobile Number: 071 223 5722