A national programme set up to train unemployed young people in rural areas seems to be in disarray in the Eastern Cape, where some students have given up hope of graduating while others say they have been given certificates for courses they didn’t complete, GroundUp reports.
The National Rural Youth Service Corps (Narysec) programme was introduced by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform to rural municipalities, including some in the Eastern Cape, five years ago. Each municipality had to choose participants for the two-year programme.
According to the Department, Narysec is responsible for training rural youth in skills such as building and farming, or skills to match the needs of the communities from which they are recruited.
This is part of a bigger programme to foster skills development by providing 23 700 training opportunities to rural youth by 2020.
Spending on the programme jumped from R288.5m in 2011-12 to R814m in 2013-14 and has come down to a projected R331.9m for the 2015-16 financial year, according to National Treasury estimates of spending by the department.
Money not paid
According to the Treasury documents, Narysec participants are supposed to work on projects to promote sustainable rural livelihoods, including profiling rural households, implementing the animal and veld management programme and the fencing scheme, and registering co-operatives and rural enterprises to encourage the commercialisation of farms.
The first group of participants started in 2010, but students in that Eastern Cape intake say they still have not finished their studies. Some also complain that they are not being paid the allowances which were promised.
Students get a stipend of R1 320 a month but 44 students doing a building course at a secondary school in Dangwane, near Mount Frere, say they had been promised extra money to cover lodgings, which has not been paid. The students protested last week in Dangwane.
Meanwhile some of those on later programmes, who did graduate earlier this year, say they were given certificates for courses they did not complete.
Officials from Narysec and the department did not respond to requests for comment.
One student from Matatiele, 153km from Mount Frere, said he had started the programme in 2010 and had spent four months in Lusikisiki on a building course.
“After that we were sent home, then called in March this year to do six months’ training. Officials told us that those who are from Matatiele, Bizana, Mthatha, East London and Queenstown must find a place to stay and they would give us R2 180 every month.”
Students sent home without completing course
After a protest two weeks ago, officials promised to respond but had failed to do so, said the student who did not want to be named.
“Now they are telling us to go home and they’re going to contact us next year. It’s not even clear when next year.”
He said that all the time he had been at home without studying he had been paid the stipend.
Meanwhile, participants in a water and sanitation training project in Mthatha have also been sent home, without completing their course.
“I have been part of this programme since 2010, but I was sitting at home doing nothing. Then we were told about the training. But while I’ve been here we only had a demonstration, no theory, no practicals. We do not want to leave. At least they must tell us when they are going to call us next year,” said one student.
Akhona Plaatjie, who began studying an agricultural course in 2012, said he finished the course last August but had not been told when he would graduate or get a certificate.
Siphokazi Mnyamana said she was part of the programme in 2012 studying renewable energy.
She said she had first been trained in Kimberley “with soldiers” for six months. Then she and other students had been sent home for three months while still getting their stipend.
‘I have my certificate, but know nothing’
She said they had been called again for a further three months’ training in Somerset East, but they had not completed the course because there was no stationery.
“There was a time where we were sent to Durban University to do electrical engineering, then we were sent to Port Elizabeth for in-service training but when we got there we were taught how to repair geysers. We didn’t finish the training. Again we were cut off,” she said.
Mnyamana’s class graduated earlier this year. But she was not given certificates for all the courses she completed, while several other students in the class told GroundUp they had been given certificates for courses they had not completed.
One student said he had a certificate stating that he had passed the renewable energy course but what he had been taught was how to maintain a geyser.
“My certificate is good, but I know nothing about renewable energy,” he said.
GroundUp sent inquiries to the head of Narysec Eastern Cape Project Implementation, Mandayi Rala, on November 16 and tried to contact his office without success.
Other requests for comment were sent to the senior communication officer in the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, Eastern Cape, Thabile Mehlomakhulu, on November 24 and to the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Gugile Nkwinti.
Mehlomakhulu, Minister Nkwinti’s secretary, Nomava Notshe, and Rala all acknowledged receiving the emails and promised to send them to the right people.
Rala said he would instruct his team to respond by November 28.
But at the time of publishing, GroundUp had not received any responses.
Nombulelo Damba – Hendrik, GroundUp
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