To counter the negative impacts of the pandemic on youth employment and education, the government introduced two vital initiatives - the Presidential Youth Employment Initiative (PYEI) and the Basic Education Employment Initiative (BEEI).
These initiatives aimed to provide employment opportunities for young people at a time when the country's economy was facing uncertainty. The implementation of these programs involved an allocation of R26.6 billion from the National Treasury Department to the Provincial Education Departments across the country.
Over A Million Job Opportunities Created
Thanks to the PYEI and BEEI, more than 1 million job opportunities have been created for the youth between 2020 and 2023. Notably, certain provincial education departments have excelled in creating these employment avenues, contributing significantly to the youth's well-being and the nation's economic stability.
The Eastern Cape's Basic Education Department stands out for creating over 220 000 job opportunities over the past three years, aided by a budget allocation of R3.8 billion. Similarly, the Gauteng Department of Basic Education accomplished an impressive feat, generating 170 000 jobs with a budget of R3 billion.
Empowering Youth Through the PYEI
The Presidential Youth Employment Initiative targets young South Africans aged 18 to 34 years, aiming to mitigate youth unemployment. The program engages participants as general assistants within the Basic Education Sector. This approach not only helps them gain practical skills but also enhances their employability and provides them with a source of income.
The stipends offered to teacher assistants match the National Minimum Wage (NMW) and include a contribution to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF). The PYEI creates a platform for youth to develop both hard and soft skills, along with valuable experiences that prepare them for future success.
The implementation of the PYEI for teaching assistants has yielded impressive results in addressing the combined challenges of unemployment, gender inequality, and poverty. The programme's statistics for 2022 reveal that approximately 63% of the job opportunities were occupied by women, demonstrating a significant stride towards gender parity in employment.
Phase Four in Progress, Eyes on the Future
As of February this year, phase four of the Employment Initiative is in full swing, with its culmination expected in September 2023. While a fifth phase has not yet been officially confirmed, the spotlight is on the government to continue providing the much-needed opportunities for the youth.
Despite facing some critique regarding its scope, the Employment Initiative has gained favour from school staff members and relevant stakeholders. The programme's positive impact on the lives of young people and the larger community stands as a testament to its efficacy, potentially paving the way for its expansion in the future.