“I feel a lot of anxiety every morning,” says Akhona Simelane, a former learner from Vryheid Agricultural High School in northern KwaZulu-Natal. She is among the 2022 matriculants who are eagerly awaiting the release of their final exam results on Thursday, 19 January.
“I need everything to just go well, and I honestly hope I can be the best that I can be,” adds Simelane. Last year, she found it difficult to balance school sports activities and academics, but she is hopeful for good results that will lead to acceptance into any agriculture college to study agriscience.
The grade 12 results were traditionally released in the first week of January. However, this year, the department of basic education delayed the release by two weeks, much to the dismay of anxious learners.
Futures in the balance
“The pressure is building, but I am hanging in there,” says Heinz Agyanpong, a classmate of Simelane who loves numbers and solving problems. “I’m focusing a little bit more on my hobbies, like going to the gym, just to ease the pressure.”
Already provisionally accepted by Stellenbosch University, Agyanpong hopes to be fully accepted to study towards a bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics. His acceptance is subject to his final matric results.
Another 2022 matriculant with hopes of studying accounting or marketing, despite having been at an agricultural school, is Nandi Sibiya. She has applied to the University of Johannesburg, Wits University, and the University of the Western Cape.
Sibiya is not lost for the agriculture sector, though. “I already have a background in agriculture. I want to learn more about business so that I can run my own farm,” she explains. “I am thinking of having a livestock farm.”
Revitalising agriculture colleges
Meanwhile, Gabbey Malope, the Durban campus principal of Toutele Agriculture College South Africa (Tacsa), says they have big plans for the year ahead. Future students can look forward to lessons about integrating technology into agriculture.
“Our college is more than ready for this year,” she says. “We are going to do more than just teach the students how to run a farm. We will also be introducing ways that they can integrate technology into their farm operations. This year, we are expanding our operations to reach more students and provide them with resources that they need to start their careers in agriculture right away.”
However, as the beginning of the academic year nears, a spokesperson for the South African Agricultural Graduate Association, Thapelo Qomiane-Mokodue, hopes agricultural colleges will be revived.
“Our government should focus on bringing back the integrity of these colleges,” he says, noting that the Potchefstroom College of Agriculture, Taung College of Agriculture, Tompi Seleka College of Agriculture and Matzivandela College of Agriculture “used to be the most progressive and most respected colleges of agriculture in the whole country and the whole continent, but today they are not even considered.”
“We’d like to urge our government to work on these dilapidated institutions and redeem their glory again. We can’t embrace the fact that these institutions were better in the apartheid era and are deteriorating in the time of democracy,” concludes Qomiane-Mokodue.
How to make the right moves
Meanwhile, Agrijob managing director, Marianne van der Laarse, tells Food For Mzansi that she is confident about the upcoming academic year. She believes young people have a good opportunity to start building a bright future.
“Don’t wait for the world to rescue you,” she urges.
Van der Laarse has a few tips for 2022 matriculants who wish to explore agriculture:
- Read, read, read. Reading is the perfect vehicle for information-gathering, figuring out a how-to or just keeping up with interests that have nothing to do with a book.
- Find out what really interests you in agriculture. Try to watch videos online and subscribe to e-newsletters.
- Do short online courses in your field of interest. Many websites offer free courses.
- Talk to people working in your field of interest. Find online events. Google, and visit industry organisations’ websites. Attend expos where possible.
- Find voluntary work or a weekend job or job shadowing, which might not be easy to find, but don’t give up.
- Ignite your entrepreneurial skills. If you have some space and access to water, start growing vegetables to sell to neighbours, even if it is on a small scale. Or offer to look after community members’ livestock. This will help you to know what you like and don’t like. Even if it is not in your field of study, you will gain life experience.
- Improve your communication and language skills. Gain self-confidence by asking your friends to form a group where you can help each other to practice interviews and simulate communication with strangers.
“This is a key secret to success. If you struggle to promote yourself, try to improve. Take responsibility for your own life and career, nobody else can do this on your behalf,” advises Van der Laarse.
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