South Africa’s Education System to Blame for Youth Unemployment, Catholic Bishop Says

Bishop Sithembele Sipuka of South Africa's Mthatha Diocese/Credit: Bishop Sithembele Sipuka

The Bishop of South Africa’s Catholic Diocese of Mthatha has identified education system as one of the major causes of high unemployment among the youth in the country.

In a Friday, July 2 statement shared with ACI Africa, Bishop Sithembele Sipuka describes the education system as the “mother” of all the causes of unemployment in South Africa.

“It would be superficial to deal with the present youth unemployment without raising related problems leading to it, the education system being the mother problem of them all,” Bishop Sipuka says.

The South African Bishop adds that the education system in the country gives students knowledge that is contrary to what they will find in the job market.

“Youth unemployment is due to the visionless educational system, which prepares young people for non-existent white-collar jobs. This has resulted in several qualified young people sitting at home because qualified as they are, there is no market for their skills,” says the Local Ordinary of Mthatha who doubles as the President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC).


Alluding to the 1976 Soweto Youth Uprising, the Bishop said the far the country has come in terms of championing for rights of young people does not warrant the current state of youth affairs.

“The youth revolution of 16 June 1976 was a painful event that saw several young people being maimed and killed and many going into exile. While their sacrificial courage significantly contributed to the present democratic dispensation, the youth as a social group is the most negatively impacted by the government’s ineptitude to implement policies and by the corruption of deployed cadres,” he says.  

Bishop Sipuka also faults the Church leadership for not standing with the young population in the country like their predecessors during the times of missionaries who first introduced Christianity to the country.

“Inculcating development mentality among Priests and Religious Mission land, during the time of missionaries were oases of development in poor rural areas but today they lay forlorn because we priests and religious of today are trained only for spiritual pastoral work and not for development as well,” says the Bishop of Mthatha. 

He adds, “We can be effective in encouraging others about development if we, the leadership of the Church model by example instead of pontificating. A holistic care of the early missionaries, inclusive of spiritual and physical development is what made them successful in their evangelization drive.”

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The Bishop also highlights the effect of school dropouts blaming the country’s vocational training for not being able to handle those who do not complete the set academic cycle.

“Those oriented towards vocational and practical skills are forced into theoretical streams that they cannot handle and end up dropping out. They are forced into a system that eventually spits them out because they cannot cope with it,” adds Bishop Sipuka.   

South Africa has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world with 63 percent of its young population between 16 to 25 years jobless. In a recent article, Hannah J. Dawson from the country’s University of Witwatersrand says a good percentage of these young people have never worked in the formal economy.