Unemployment crisis in SA: Recycler has law doctorate

The major crisis of unemployment in South Africa has led to graduates opting to take matters into their own hands.

Year by year, things are going from bad to worse with the lack of jobs in the country.

Statistics South Africa’s figures show that year-on-year, the unemployment rate among young graduates (aged 15-24 years) declined from 40.3% to 32.6%, while it increased by 6.9 percentage points to 22.4% for those aged 25-34 years in first quarter of 2022.

Fezile Ngobese, 30, holds a PhD in law and graduated in 2013 from the University of Pretoria. Since he obtained his doctorate, he has never set a foot in a workplace.

Now in his 30s, Ngobese is still in the same place and same situation. He finally took a decision to recycle tins, plastic bottles and boxes in order to make a living.

He said what he is doing now is better than sitting at home doing nothing and regretting why he studied all his life for something that will not take him anywhere in his future.

“I am hopeless about the future of South Africa,” Ngobese said. “I cannot believe that I have a doctorate but am doing this job that am doing now, it is so unfair,” Ngobese said.

“When we were growing up, we were told education is the key to success, but when we get the key the government changes the locks.

“I studied to become a lawyer but today I am a recycler who is undermined by people in the streets and it hurts. I decided to do this job because at least I can put bread on the table instead of going to bed hungry.”

Ngobese is not the only one holding a PhD who is a recycler. Mahlatsi Moloko, a 34 year old who studied at University of South Africa (Unisa), has a PhD in criminology.

“My parents died when I was doing my final year and I promised myself that I will look after my three younger siblings,” said Moloko.

“I thought as soon as I graduated, I would start working and create a brighter future for us. But things didn’t happen as expected.

“After I graduated, I worked as an intern for two police institutions for a year. After my contract ended, I could not find any more jobs in my field.

I tried applying at other institutions with no luck, until I decided that either I recycle to make a living or I starve, along with my siblings.”

SA Council for Graduates director Thamsanqa Maqubela said something had to change.

“The manner in which we’ve been educating our people has got to go through a holistic change and overhaul,” Maqubela said.

“It needs to give us an attitude that wants to win. An attitude of fearlessness to be able to produce and manufacture, not just to seek employment or stand in queues and wait for employment.”

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