Home PodcastJulie Alli Class of 2023: What next, when the dust settles?

Class of 2023: What next, when the dust settles?

by Zahid Jadwat

Matric is done and dusted. But what next for the Class of 2023? [Picture: Picture: African News Agency (ANA)]


The annual hype around the matric results is fading into the background. But the reality for the now unemployed graduates is quickly settling in. Many may have passed with distinctions, others not quite. It is a long road ahead.

When Angie Motshekga delivered her speech this year, I was awestruck. Not because she delivered an excellent oration (nope, numerals still seem to tie the education chief’s tongue), but because when she spoke of the Class of 2023, it was personal.

With my own – and my classmates’ – results still on our minds, this speech signified a monumental shift in our lives. We had completed school, but what next? In a way, the thought of life after school induces a swell of emotions – anxiety, jubilation, excitement.

What options does a matriculant in South Africa have in 2024? In a time when 4.9 million youth aged 15-34 – nearly half of this cohort – sit at home without a job? When the environment is such that entrepreneurship is more a dream than a practical next step? When floods are wiping out homes and livelihoods more often than ever before?

“We need to change our mindset,” says Mariam Mia, an education expert and presenter at Salaamedia. “We need to shift paradigms in terms of what are the skills required in South Africa. See what are the critical skills. We need to broaden our horizons.”


SMread: Angered SACAI matriculants sign petition over marks

Mindset shift

Education is often seen as a door to opportunities that could change the trajectory of its patron’s life. In fact, it was the father of our nation who said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. It is true.

But longstanding notions of what to learn, how to learn it and where to learn it are quickly receding into redundancy. The world is changing. It is changing fast.

Mia says a past obsession with ‘status’ that is often associated with the nature of one’s job is becoming a thing of the past. When looking at opportunities, she says, look for something that makes a positive contribution to society and society will reward you for it.

“If you are contributing, you’re providing a service, scarce skills, you’re supplying goods, you’re an entrepreneur, you’re earning [and] you’re contributing positively to society, you’re a valued member of society. There’s no longer this job status,” she explains.

But that also means that what has become the standard procedure – going to university after matric – is not necessarily still relevant, if at all possible against the odds. Explore other options.


SMread: Education system back under spotlight ahead of matric results announcement

Explore other options

Public universities in SA are congested and the quality of social conditions means many matriculants might not stand a chance. For example, in 2023, there were only 196 324 spaces across public universities. This was against a total of 278 815 eligible matriculants.

She recommends high school graduates consider other options that do not include university. Those who are simply not cut out for studying could always consider entrepreneurship.

“Those of you who were selling phones, tablets, this or that, why don’t you go into the scene, study markets and trends and become an entrepreneur?” she asks metrics who juggled a side hustle with school. “Those that were very creative in painting and artistry, you were selling these beautiful canvases, consider fine art, consider graphics.”

For those who still wish to learn may do so by gaining practical experience in the workplace, though. Using the example of a motor mechanic learnership, she suggests matriculants take advantage of Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) services in whichever industry they wish to enter into.

“While you’re there, you’re protected by the labour law of the industry. You get a decent salary, you get on-the-job training and you go every six weeks for training and then you write your level exams and you can complete anywhere between 18 months to four years. That gives you a motor mechanics qualification which didn’t cost you anything,” she says.

It has been a long road from that first day in school to the last. Our dreams may have changed over the course of those 12 long years, but life after school must eventually swing around. At the end of the day, your life is what you make of it.

In her parting shot to the Class of 2023, Mia says: “You want something, you need to go out there and get it. Make your opportunities. If you want entrepreneurship, go and make it happen … There’s always a need for dedicated, responsible individuals that want to contribute positively to South Africa and make the difference”.

Related Videos