A newspaper article caught my attention yesterday, “SA wants to draw 35 000 skilled foreign workers.” (The Herald, Thursday April 26, 2007.) I thought I had misread it, but no, there it was. Our Home Affairs Minister (whose name I am not even going to attempt to spell or pronounce) announced the availability of 34 825 quota work permits in 53 occupations, ranging from vets to jewellery designers.

Now this is all very well, but how are these foreign job-seekers going to find jobs? Unless you are “previously disadvantaged”, which is clearly defined by the Employment Equity Act, most jobs are beyond your reach, as employers scramble to meet every increasing racial targets. We probably had these skills in the first place and lost them, as highly-qualified white workers just took their talents elsewhere in frustration. Will our Government give some sort of exemption to employers in order to employ these foreigners without spoiling there equity scorecards? How absurd !!

Here’s a plan that might solve our skills shortage and our dismal sports record (I am not going to use the C-word).

Set up a task force of local and International education and sports experts. Preferably bypass our “Eddykayshun” Department totally. Formulate a simple academic and sports-capability test. IQ tests won’t work as they are deemed racist and Eurocentric. Travel to every single school in the country, from the smallest rural farm school, to the most prestigious Private School, and test every single 10-year old boy and girl.

I am no sports expert, but I am sure that it would be extremely easy to time every child over 100m, barefoot on grass. Design a simple power-to-weight and ball-handling capability test. Weigh them and measure them.

Academically, test numeracy and literacy (home language). Test their skills in simple logic. Interview each child together with their teacher. Make the tests objective, measurable and unbiased.

After the data collection process, compile a database of the top candidates in academic and sports fields and select say the top 200. Build a world-class school funded by Central Government, and staff if with world-class academics, sportsmen and women. Spare no expense on libraries, computers, sports facilities and other infrastructure. Design a curriculum for high-achievers for the academicaly-inclined and steer them towards careers in the engineering, medical and IT fields. The sports squad would follow the normal National curriculum unless they were also selected for academic excellence.

Invite the top 200, 10-year-olds, to attend this school free of charge for their school careers, including hostel accomodation. Every year, repeat the countrywide tests for this age group, and inject another 200 high-achievers into the school. On completion of Matric, fund them through local or International Universities on bursaries, repayable to the Government if they leave the country after graduating.

In 10-15 years time the first of these “gems” will trickle into our economy, and onto our sportsfields, and then the world will sit up and take notice.



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