Calls For PYEI-BEEI Teaching Assistants Initiative To Continue

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While several promises were made during the 2024 SONA speech, youth organisations are calling for government to back their promises and allocate enough resources to effectively combat youth unemployment.

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Last November saw Finance Minister, Enoch Godongwana, announce the Medium-term Budget Policy Speech where he revealed that the Presidential Youth Employment Initiative (PYEI) will be extended. However, no announcements on which programmes within the initiative would continue was made.

Now, organisations and unions are calling for Government to extend the Basic Education Employment Initiative (BEEI), which falls under the PYEI, to be extended. This initiative sees unemployed youth in South Africa hired as general and school assistants.

During the 2024 State of The Nation Address (SONA), President Cyril Ramaphosa reflected on years of the achievements made by the government over the last 30 years of democracy. 

President Ramaphosa described the success of a young person, Tintswalo who averaged public opportunities such as school feeding schemes, public housing, free education, and the ability to complete their studies at Technical and Education Vocational College and paid for it with a government bursary. 

After completing her qualification, Tintswalo found a job, earned and saved money and eventually started a family . While Tintwalo’s story signifies the success of several government policies and interventions, her story does not reflect the reality of millions of South African youth. 

There is more than 4.6 million unemployed youth living in South Africa making up a youth unemployment rate of 43.4%. It's also important to note that 9.1 million young people are not in education, employment or training. 

Kristal Duncan-Williams, Project Lead at Youth Capital believes the challenges faced by the youth must be treated as a national priority in a country where a significant portion of the population comprises young people. 

They described Ramaphosa’s SONA as out of touch with the reality of young people in the country. 

Duncan-Williams urges the government to prioritise initiatives like the Presidential Employment Stimulus(PES) which has shown tangible benefits for youth, learners, communities, and the economy.

Ramaphosa highlighted the government's efforts to combat youth unemployment during his SONA speech.  

Launched three years ago, the PES has successfully created over 1.7 million work opportunities, providing vital employment avenues for young individuals. Notably, the placement of more than 1 million school assistants in 23,000 schools has not only offered valuable work experience but also contributed to enhancing learning outcomes

Duncan-Williams emphasises the importance of the government backing its promises with tangible actions, urging them to allocate resources effectively to address the pressing needs of young people and the broader population.

the reality will be unveiled on 21 February when the National Budget is tabled. ‘We hope to see the ruling party put their money where their mouth is

Over 1.7 million work opportunities were granted through the PYEI with more than 1 million school assistants placed in 23,000 schools across the country, said Ramaphosa.

If you go around our country, and you talk to school principals, you talk to school teachers, they will tell you how beneficial this programme has been in assisting them in their schools but more importantly how beneficial this programme has been to these young people who are being introduced to the world of work.

The President did not however clarify whether the BEEI will continue. The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) is joining calls for the BEEI to continue.

"The Presidential Employment Stimulus has helped employ 1 million young people, enabled them to earn a salary and gain the skills and experience necessary to find long term employment. We have been bitterly disappointed by the bewildering cuts to the funds for this critical programme," said Cosatu.

The President needs to ensure its budget is dramatically increased to enable 1 million active participants by April and 2 million by November 2024.

Teacher Assistant Applications Not Open For PYEI Phase VI

There have recently been rumours circulating and fake messages making the rounds about phase 6 of the initiative. The messages have said that applications are open for the next phase of teacher assistant jobs with the starting date being in April.

The Department of Basic Education then clarified:

Beware of a WhatsApp message circulating about phase 5 of the PYEI in Basic Education. It's fake news, please ignore it.

They further urged the public to "Be vigilant. Don't fall victim to fake news". Any updates on PYEI in the basic education sector will be communicated using the Department's official communication channels.

South Africans now patiently await the Budget Speech which will be held on 21 February as announcements on many things, including the PYEI, is expected to be made.

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