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Universities support the government's drive to provide high quality education

The University of Venda, through its Department of Communications and Marketing hosted for the first time the 2012
National Congress and Annual General Meeting for Careers Exhibitions and Information Association of South Africa. The Congress which was attended by delegates from Universities, Universities of Technology, Government Departments, semi-Governmental institutions and private institutions took place at The Ranch Hotel Polokwane in Limpopo Province on 24-26 October 2012. The congress brought together a rich diversity of presenters and
participants whose presentations focused on the theme “Education and Skills Development in Southern Africa.”

The Congress was officially opened by the Deputy Vice Chancellor of Academic Division, University of Venda, Prof Xikombiso Mbhenyane. When welcoming the delegates Prof Mbhenyane indicated that “2012 is an important year in the history of the University of Venda as it marks 30 years of our existence as a tertiary
institution. Prof Mbhenyane indicated that the University saw it befitting that „?we honour those leaders who had the vision to establish UNIVEN which has over the years not only greatly influenced the socio economic development of our region but also produced great alumni who hold positions of influence in many spheres of both government and the private sector.” She commended CEIA under the leadership of President Steve Kekana for playing a vital role in sharing career information with prospective students and learners through career exhibitions that take place throughout the year countrywide which at the end help learners to be able to make informed career decisions.

Institutions of higher learning support the government’s drive to provide a high quality education for increasing the number of graduates who are empowered to address the needs of the country’s economy. However, the challenge remains the ability to attract better prepared and best performing learners. The other challenges facing institutions of higher learning today are to reduce undergraduate drop-out rates and increase through-put rates as those who stay within academic programmes are very few.

The Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the North West University, Dr Theuns Eloff was one of the speakers during the congress. His presentation was on “Challenges of walk-ins in Higher Education Institutions”. In his presentation Dr Eloff emphasised turn-around time which is a serious problem to most of the universities when it comes to applications. “All institutions of higher learning need good governance and management,” said Dr Eloff. He further maintained that critical skills in literacy and numeracy as well as a number of school leavers with Mathematics keep on declining.

Dr Eloff asserted that there is too much expectations created by officials and politicians of unlimited access, no barriers as regards meeting prerequisites, free education and all these become a dilemma in South African education.

Higher education has been caught in a "perfect storm." Institutions are tightening their belts and scrambling to keep their doors open to students from all walks of life. Yet even and especially in these challenging times, it is our collective responsibility to be agents of change for social and economic justice. If we want our students to succeed, we cannot just consider academic preparation and intellectual abilities. However, we have to consider and support the whole student and that includes identity, family background, and related issues of social and economic justice.

Other speakers include Mr Wessels of Tshwane University of Technology, Mr George Van der Ross, CEO of CAO, Dr Jabu Nukeri of SAASTA, Mr Nephawe, General Manager: Provincial HRD Strategy, Ms Mahlako Phasha of Waterberg FET college, Mr Moeketsi Letseka of Unisa and Mr Cele of NSFAS.

The congress was followed by a Gala dinner where in Dr John Maloma, Director of Communications and Marketing, North West University was the guest speaker. He gave a powerful motivational talk in which he advised delegates not to be driven by their past as “those who hurt you in the past cannot continue to hurt you now unless you hold on to the pain through resentment,”

During the gala dinner institutions were given recognition awards for their participation in various career exhibitions throughout the year. Veterans? awards which are bestowed to distinguished individuals for having served the association for a long time, were awarded to Ms Yvonne Kekana of Wits and Mr Jonh Thulo of Central University of Technology.

The core business of the CEIA is to provide comprehensive career information through inter active communication. Learners and students at exhibitions in rural and urban areas of South Africa and in neighbouring states are guided towards making informed career choices at institutions of their own choice. CEIA’s vision is to increase student numbers in Further Education and Training Colleges (FET's) and the Higher Education Institutions (HE) by providing quality career information that will contribute to human capital development for a meaningful role in society.