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#HireAGraduate: Young people on why they had no choice but to leave the Eastern Cape

by: Buntu Mgwelo - 22 February 2017

16649102_1244284858982288_6789083950328204131_nThis morning, thousands of graduates in the Eastern Cape took their frustration at being unemployed despite having tertiary qualifications, to the streets. They formed a human chain in different parts of the province, some wearing their graduation gear, and holding up signs that read #HireAGraduate.

Our trainees from the Eastern Cape know this struggle too well. Inspired by their fellow graduates back home, they decided to tell their stories on how the lack of opportunities in their home province has driven them to Joburg.

“To say that there are no job opportunities for media graduates is a bit on an understatement”

“I come from a small town near King Williams Town called Berlin. To say that there are no job opportunities for media graduates is a bit on an understatement. There are no community newspapers, radio and TV stations. The closest radio station is in Mdantsane, which is about 30km away. This is why I decided to go study at TUT in Pretoria. Not only because it has one of the best journalism schools in the country, and I knew I would be closer to work opportunities. My grandmother used her pension money to pay for my studies. So, I knew that I could not afford to fail. I couldn’t afford to live at res, so I rented a room and lived on R500 per month.

The #HireAGraduate hashtag really hit home because I know some of the young people in those pictures personally and it made me feel like that could have been me had I stayed. I know the pressure of being a graduate and the expectation at home that you are supposed to help provide for the family even though there are no jobs.” – Buntu Mgwelo (24), Berlin

“After matric or graduating, your reality is the same: stay at home”

“When I saw the #HireAGraduate hashtag the first thing that went through my mind, when I saw all those students lining the streets on a day the finance minister is supposed to be delivering his budget, was hopelessness and anger.

Hopeless because we are still not close to solving the youth unemployment rate especially where I come from in Mdantsane.  Here after matric or graduating, your reality is the same: stay at home. I also felt angry because every year we hear about the budget speech and unemployment and yet nothing is done.

Local government representatives in my area play with our feelings because they would call graduates and ask for our qualifications and CVs, promising us jobs and then we would wait for nothing. We are still waiting. Which is what drove me to Joburg because although I still have not found a job, I have a better chance of finding one. The unfortunate thing is that not everyone back home has the privilege to graduate from Rhodes University like I did, nor do they have the money to relocate, so their situation is still bleak. And it needs to change.” – Mihlali Ntsabo (21), Mdantsane

“I knew that there were no jobs for film graduates  in my hometown”

“I decided not to move back home to Port Elizabeth after I got my diploma in film while studying in Cape Town at CPUT. This is because I knew that there were no jobs for film graduates  in my hometown. Added to this, I would have no access to Wi-Fi at home, which meant I would not be able to look for work on the Internet or fix my CV. So, this is how I decided to take the leap and move to Joburg.” – Aziwe Rayi (23), Port Elizabeth

“The province is high in resources yet it’s still impoverished”

“I left the Eastern Cape in 2006. The main reason for that was my sister (guardian) didn’t see any opportunities for us in the province. The province is high in resources yet it’s still impoverished. The best places to find good jobs after high school was in the big cities like Cape Town an Joburg.” – Athenkosi Guntu (25), Port Elizabeth

Feature image via Facebook

Are you a young person in the Eastern Cape? What was your reaction to #HireAGraduate? Who should be help accountable? We want to hear from you @ProjectDemoZA on Twitter.


Project Demo finds the voices of young people in South Africa, amplifies their stories and turns their cause for change into a reality. Tell them your issue. They’ll take it on and campaign with you.

www.projectdemo.org.za