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Education the key to our economic freedom, not land expropriation

By Khethelo Xulu

The gloomy outlook on the attainment of economic freedom in SA is yet to be spelt out to the disadvantaged and desperate young citizens of the nation. Unemployment, poverty and the lack of access to natural resources such as land are the issues that plague our societies the most. In particular, they plague our townships and rural areas, which are primarily populated by black South Africans.

The youth, characterised by a high rate of unemployment, is extremely frustrated. The disparate political youth structures call for different approaches to solve this problem. Each structure blames someone or something different for the current state of the youth. Whose fault is it really?

One can expect many answers to this question. Some parties blame the economic systems, such as capitalism. Others blame the greedy business people who are only interested in generating profits at the expense of poor people, in their land. Despite having all these answers, we are still failing somehow. What is the real problem in our country?

When I look at the calibre of leaders who seem to advocate for the youth, I start to worry even more. The majority of the unemployed in our country lack necessary skills. They are also not aware of the things that can give them freedom. If you ask most unemployed individuals what job they want, it is unlikely you will get a straight answer. Often you will be met by the following response: “Any job.” What is any job? The situation is very grave indeed.

Irrespective of this state of affairs, youth leaders are found channelling their energy into other matters. They are not telling the youth to work hard so that they can liberate themselves. It is my belief that, if youth leaders in the country mobilise young people to acquire necessary skills; motivate them to get an education; inform them of the different opportunities available to them and inspire them to create opportunities for themselves, unemployment among the youth will decrease sharply.

Young people in SA’s poorest areas are demotivated. They do not know or understand terms such as economic freedom, land redistribution, and so forth, which are bandied about by youth leaders. In all likelihood, they do not care. All they are concerned with is getting through the day.

Is it not time for the nation to go back to basics and begin to inspire the youth to learn more? It has been proven that education plays a pivotal role in the advancement of any nation. Without it substantial development and economic growth cannot be achieved. The education process must facilitate the widening of minds. It must also refine their individual character and behaviour, moulding them to be key contributors and problem-solvers in their respective societies and countries.

It is high time our communities deepen their understanding of the value of education. Education, more specifically a well-rounded education, develops the individual as a whole. One’s life-skills are enhanced, one is taught to uphold the tenets of civility, diligence, integrity, loyalty and excellence. It is through proper education, from parents to child and to peers that our economic systems will be liberated.

Economic freedom will never ever come on a silver platter wrapped with red ribbons. It requires hard work, readiness and, the requisite skills. Education is the foundation for the development of the nation. Perhaps the time has come for us to question ourselves as the youth on the type of leaders that we elect to follow. We want leaders who can make a difference. We do not want leaders who are only vocal about our needs while they are living good lives. Let us as the youth get educated and liberate ourselves and our communities. The power lies not in the hands of those who lead us but in us freeing our minds through education. As former president Nelson Mandela once said: “Education is the powerful weapon that can be used to change the world.”

Khethelo Xulu is a master’s researcher in medical sciences at the University of Cape Town (UCT); One Young World ambassador; SA’s Brightest Young Minds alumni and UCT Emerging Leaders alumni. He currently offers career guidance and mentorship to high school students within the Obuka tribal authority outside Empangeni, KwaZulu-Natal, SA.


  • One Young World is a UK-based not-for-profit that gathers together the brightest young people from around the world, empowering them to make lasting connections and develop lasting solutions to some of the world's most pressing issues. At the annual One Young World Summit, the most valuable young talent from global and national companies, NGOs, universities and other-forward thinking organisations are joined by world leaders, acting as the One Young World Counsellors.


  1. Nkosi Nkosi 19 November 2011

    Education might not be an all encompassing solution to SA’s socio-economic problems but nonetheless it is a necessary ‘means to an end’. It is the fulcrum of the desired socio-economic transitions that our people aspire. Obviously it (edu) does not & should not operate in isolation, but rather in tandem with other upstream variables & all this synergism of the sum parts happening within an enabling environment.

    Educational level has historically been scientifically proven as one of the most significant determinant/risk factor for a myriad of socio-economic, political & spiritual problems that societies inherently face. In this line of thought, it is then imperative that if we controlled for the impact of low education levels, then we will somehow make inroads into addressing things like ‘socio-economic inequality’, which is a mediator for ‘poor access to health care, education, housing, adequate nutrition, employment’ e.t.c. U can draw a web of socio-economic & political challenges that arise as a direct or indirect link to ones educational attainment (P/S this includes critical thinking & problem solving skills, & optimum social function not mere attainment of paper based qualifications).

    Some of SA’s problems are to an extent linked to our type of (economic, social, political, spiritual) values, ethos, perceptions, attitudes, practices, ideologies, behaviours and norms as communities. The majority of these intricately linked to the way we assimilate &…

  2. Nkosi Nkosi 19 November 2011

    Education the “KEY” to our economic freedom…i.e not the ANSWER & never at one point does the author claim it (educ), to be an answer. So why do some critics here fail to understand simple english? A key is a ‘means’ to unlocking closed doors i.e it gives u something to hold onto while in persuit of opportunity, it gives u ‘chance’ & stable ground from which to fight your emancipation & self attainment ‘battles’.

    Its fact, even the very media means we are debating this topic through & an enumerable other social, scientific & technological advancements have come through deductive/inductive reasoning & careful thought processes not merely some random error or chance outcome.

    We have unemployed matriculants, but does the current education system prepare our students for ‘society’?…i.e are they able to problem solve and innovate? Ok if a students’ matric results are not good enough for tertiary, then are there alternative routes? If so, are the students’ mindset well tuned to understand that there are still vast opportunities to better oneself outside the tertiary route? Is enough being done to conscientise matriculants of these opportunities? Do matriculants themselves have an enabling mindset i.e +ve values & attitudes towards self attainment? without which even the most intelligent mind will end up in a scrap yard of intellectual wannabe wreckages.

    Its a collective, painful, tedious, energy saving and not clearly defined pathway but nonetheless has…

  3. Sipho Sipho 21 November 2011

    @M Mbethe # Me thinks you made a statement NJE, without thinking, now you’re clutching at the straws. Let’s utilise your “education” now, who buys the most expensive and latest model cars? Is it educated people like you or non educated people like me? Who drinks the most expensive liquor?
    Dude it has nothing to do with education.
    By the way where are you in the Forbes 500 rich people list? As a smart and educated person you should be somewhere there. If you think of it, all the knowledge you have about business is obselete, anyone who went to business school knows the stuff it doesn’t give you any competitive advantage. You can only strut it on the M&G blog pages and convince yourself that you’re smart.

  4. Sipho Sipho 21 November 2011

    @baobab booi # – I’m sure technicians have advanced too since the 1800s. So what’s your points.

  5. baobabbooi baobabbooi 21 November 2011

    Geeze Sipho, that’s pathetically obtuse.

    I think you get my point very well indeed.

    Anyway, I see you have already apologised to Khethelo for your attempt to disqualify his point of view on the basis that he is a physician and therefore, by default, a technician who should not comment outside his immediate sphere of knowledge. So let’s just leave it at that and move on, hey?

    You might do well to check out Khethelo’s bio on “One Young World” before flippantly pigeon-holing people into thinkers and non-thinkers rather than actually addressing the issues at hand.

  6. Sipho Sipho 22 November 2011

    @baobabbooi # – Me thinks technicians are way ahead of medical doctors. Technicians can bring any mechanical or electronic gadget back to life, if money is not an issue. The same can’t be said of medical doctors despite their vast knowledge of human physiology.

    A point to ponder – thanks for the engagement.

  7. X Cepting X Cepting 22 November 2011

    Many commentators here touch on, what is for me, the crux of the matter and why there are so many different viewpoints on the effectiveness of education as a solution. There are many different types of education.  For example, I have watched with horrified fascination as one boy from the group of “corner kids” on my pavement demonstrated to another how to overpower and disem-cellphone another person.  This is an education.  It is teaching a skill that, however socially unacceptable, will ensure some level of survival in a gang setup to a person with no formal schooling or inherited capital or land and a dysfunctional or no family. I received a previously advantaged “Christian National” schooling, as Harris love to call my education and learned a fair amount but not how to conduct myself, which my parents and community taught me.  My neighbour, on the other hand, received a previously disadvantaged “bantu” education in a rural setup and have distinguished himself far more than myself, if judging by position and earnings alone.  In his case ethic of hard work and never-ending quest for self-improvement also came from his parents. 

  8. X Cepting X Cepting 22 November 2011

    The point I’m trying to make is that to bandy the remedy “education” about, without also defining what this word means is nothing short of uneducated fantasizing.  We have to ask ourselves why it is that certain people (from all monetary classes and colours/races) succeed to drive themselves to success.  Why do some get up at 3am to make it all happen when others are quite happy to sit on the pavement and demand aid and retribution? Khethelo makes this quite clear in the paragraph starting with “Is it not time for the nation…societies and countries” and the following paragraph “It is high time…will be liberated”.  That is indeed the kind of education that will uplift, not make false promises that can’t be kept.  A degree/diploma is not an education, not even the start of one.  It starts with your parents and ends, after travelling through school, Technikon/university then work in society, at death.  That is the whole point of being here, evolving with changing circumstances, not so? 

  9. X Cepting X Cepting 22 November 2011

    We live in an era of factory cloned specialists that simply cannot grasp why their quick-fixes do not work, but they lack the knowledge (education) of who they are applying this to and often the knowledge of how society will work in changing climes.  I often see people make comments about “the poor” and “shack dwellers” with no real knowledge of who these people are, that jars.  The outcome of education should be an individual with the strength, courage, vision and love of learning, to compete in an ever more crowded global village, in spite of their backgrounds, not because of it.  This starts with parents.  In a dysfunctional family this should start with a concerned community and child welfare services.

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