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South African finance minister Trevor Manuel said in a post-budget seminar yesterday that only seven percent of matriculants had passed higher grade maths and this led to a serious lack of quantitative skills in the country.
DEFS Engineering managing director Fezile Kies said he was not surprised by Manuel's comments and that he had experienced a vacuum in South Africa's scientific and mathematical skills base.
"What has been happening is a neglect of further education and tertiary institutions providing these skills," Kies commented.
"Electricians, boiler makers, setters, turners and other industrial quantitative skills are not developed well enough. We need creative means to develop these subjects at high school level directed towards professional application," he said.
A World Bank Report released last month described potential initiatives that were being implemented in developing Asian countries where high school children were given monetary incentives to study mathematics and science in matric.
Manuel highlighted that while four million people were looking for jobs, and there were one million posts available, there was still an undershoot as far as filling these posts went and this related to job seekers with incorrect skills sets.
"Crime fighting is very important, but without forensic experts we won't be able to fight crime," Manuel pointed out as an example of the problem. "We've lost many of these professionals to overseas countries and this needs to be looked at."
Education is still the largest recipient of government spending and this year R6billion has been set aside to hire additional teachers. Another key feature of government spending is that R2,2billion will go to subsidies for higher education.
Tjate Platinum Corporation chairman Vincent Phaahla said: "We need to create a consortium of training institutions in critical industries (such as mining) across Africa in order to facilitate and accelerate human resource development." - With I-Net Bridge