In August, Dumalisile Comprehensive High School, one of the schools at our Public School Partnership Project, hosted their first Careers Expo Event.
To give you a snapshot: Picture a huge tent, numerous guests and exhibitors arriving and setting up, banners being unfurled and presentation equipment laid out across several classrooms. Ushers running around trying to organise the excited learners and the busy caterers preparing food for the masses. The inaugural Careers Expo at Dumalisile Comprehensive was upon us!
The main goal of the event was to create exposure to some of the options and possibilities after high school and to help young people make informed choices about their futures. A student’s matric (grade 12) year is often a stressful and daunting time for young school leavers wanting to further their education. What’s next? University or technikon? What is a Comprehensive University? Are Further Education and Training Colleges (FETs) a good choice? Private institutions, Agricultural colleges? There are so many choices to make and each choice has different entrance requirements, study options, study levels and many have geographical and financial constraints attached.
Rural areas receive very little exposure to different kinds of professions and opportunities after high school. Challenges within the South African education system and structural issues underlying youth unemployment are factors that contribute to this. Added to this, many of our learners come from homes where they could be the first to attend a tertiary level institution and thus they do not have easy access to information and advice. Exposure to different career paths and opportunities is important motivation for our students to remain in school and have goals to work towards.
In an area where only 12.8%* of adults are officially employed, our matric leavers face an uphill battle from the moment they finish their final exams. Our careers expo can by no means fix the unemployment crises of the area but good advice and exposure will hopefully open up some ideas and options for our learners.
A number of presenters attended including TVET colleges and universities; we even had representatives from the governmental departments of Science and Education. The South African National Defence Forces had a display and informed learners about the possibilities within the military. And a number of local entrepreneurs were invited to share their knowledge and experience. Four neighbouring high schools and the seven Amajingqi primary schools were invited to send a cohort of learners to attend this auspicious occasion. Parents and community youth were invited too. The hope was to create as much exposure as possible and to make this an event for the whole community. The actual attendance was not as high as we would have liked but hopefully as this event grows in significance we will see more presentations and a wider pool of learners getting involved.
Chief Dumalisile was there to honour the campaign and to stress the importance of such an initiative. Learners were arranged into small groups and ushered from one exhibitor to the next. Careful planning and timing ensured that every group was able to visit each exhibitor.
“For me, the highlight was mixing the grade 7s and 8s with the grade 12s”, said Sive, excited about the early exposure for these younger students and what it might mean for them as they start thinking about their futures.
“One exhibitor told me, ‘we’ve never worked this hard before at a careers day!’” Sive laughed, commenting on the intensity and eagerness of the learners to engage with what each presenter had to share.
“Right now I know what I want to study and where and what requirements are needed,” a grade 11 learner commented after the event, feeling more confident about making decisions for her future.
As this was the first year running this event, a lot of positive lessons have been learnt and we’re hoping to enhance this project. The goal is for it to become an annual event; in fact planning for 2020 has already kicked off!
As one grade 10 learner commented when asked if we should do this next year: “Yes, we have to have a careers day every year in order to help those who aren’t sure of their dreams.”
Written in conversation with Jacob Chirumanzi and Sive Mda.