The majority of tertiary students are concerned about South Africa’s future over the next five years due to prevalent corruption, soaring unemployment and the economic devastation caused by Covid-19.
However, many students choose to see the silver lining and are determined to grab the opportunities presented by these challenges, says Motshabi Nomvethe, Head of Technical Marketing at PPS, during the announcement of the 2021 Student Confidence Index (SCI) survey.
The survey has been conducted annually since 2015, except in 2020 due to Covid-19. The 2021 survey involved 3,304 participants and was conducted by the Professional Provident Society (PPS), a financial services company focused solely on graduate professionals.
The students who participated are undergraduates and postgraduates studying at a public university or university of technology and studying towards a profession-specific degree such as engineering, medicine, law or accounting. They responded to the survey through online questionnaires and virtual focus groups.
Uncertain about the future
The survey results show that 51% of the respondents are more anxious when compared to 2020 about the future impact of Covid-19.
Regarding their feelings about the country’s future over the next five years, 39% are not positive, while 41% say they are uncertain.
“This is because of a confluence of problems such as comparatively low standards of education, crime and a lack of political will to solve them. For 88% of the students, the debilitating unemployment, and for 77% the rampant corruption, sit aloft their worry list,” Nomvethe said.
Consequently, 55% of respondents are somewhat or completely not confident that they will get a job after obtaining their qualification.
A growing number of students are therefore pursuing entrepreneurship. One in three students has a side hustle, with 31% intending to grow these once employed.
More than a third (39%) of all respondents say they plan to pursue greener pastures outside the country, Nomvethe said.
The students felt that broadening their horizons by working overseas gives them a better chance of success in their careers.
“I am exposing myself to work that I can do, not just in South Africa. I am trying not to limit myself so that – should anything happen here in South Africa – I can still be an asset elsewhere,” said one student during a focus-group session.
The 30% who indicated they want to stay behind said they want to assist in growing the economy as they believe the country requires critical skills.