Graduation: The season of glory and worry

By Cebisile Mbonani (updated)



University graduation season in South Africa is upon us. Students across universities are in celebration mode, dressed in graduation caps and gowns, a symbol of commendation and achievement. Graduation season is also a period of transition from student to employee status. In a country where the unemployment rate of young people between the ages of 15 and 24 is around 50%, this transition can be particularly stressful.

Fray News spoke to some recent graduates about their future plans and how they are navigating the transitions phase


Zinhle Nkosi has big dreams for the future, the present though, is uncertain. Picture: Cebisile Mbonani
Zinhle Nkosi has big dreams for the future, the present though, is uncertain. Picture: Cebisile Mbonani

Dreaming of the future, dreading the present


Zinhle Nkosi graduated from the University of Witwatersrand on April 26 2022.

"What makes me more proud is that I graduated Cum laude. I am in disbelief, I am happy and very proud of myself. I feel like nothing can stop me from achieving anything I put my mind into", said the enthusiastic Nkosi.


She plans to use her Bachelor of Education degree in Senior Phase and FET to teach for the next coming five years. After five years, she plans to change careers and pursue a degree in physiology or radiology.

But that’s in five years’ time. There is the now to deal with.

"My concern is that it is hard finding any job in South Africa, and there are not enough opportunities for the youth." said Nkosi.

She has good reason to be concerned, although the graduate unemployment rate is lower than the general one among young people aged 15 - 24 years in south Africa, at around 40% it is still high.


Anita Phala graduates on April 26 2022, with a Bachelor of Education. Picture: supplied
Anita Phala graduates on April 26 2022, with a Bachelor of Education. Picture: supplied

Anita Phala (24) grew up in Mokopane, Limpopo and lives in Johannesburg, Gauteng. Phala graduated on April 26 2022 at Wits with her Bachelor of Education. Through education, Phala wants to impact children's lives and help them realise their potential dreams.


"I have been applying for jobs, and it has been a tough journey, but I will keep knocking until a door opens," said Phala.


Phala says her qualification helps serve the community. "If jobs aren't available, the plan is to immerse myself in the world of academics and expand my knowledge through serving the community."



An enthusiastic Simangele Noluthando Ndlovu (26), graduated with Bachelor's degree in public management.
An enthusiastic Simangele Noluthando Ndlovu (26), graduated with Bachelor's degree in public management. Picture: supplied

Simangele Noluthando Ndlovu (26) from Midrand graduated on April 29 2022, with a Bachelor's degree in public management specialising in industrial psychology, supply chain management, and performance career management. In 2017, Ndlovu couldn't afford to enroll at university, but with the help of her late grandmother, she started her own business. She bought 20 laying chickens den, and started selling eggs.


"Even though by the end of 2017, the saving was not that much but with the help of my grandmother, I managed to register at the University of the Free State in 2018, and luckily I got funded by NASFAS right after registration." said Ndlovu


Ndlovu started looking for jobs and internships last year, and she is currently working as a debt collector.


"I am updating my resume to apply in all government departments such department Labour, Department of Public Service and Administration, National Youth Development Agency, local municipality, and department of education."



Light at the end of the tunnel

Zikhona stands next to her father and three sisters during her graduation in 2019.  Picture Supplied
Zikhona stands next to her father and three sisters during her graduation in 2019. Picture Supplied

Finding employment in South Africa as a recent graduate might be challenging and daunting, it is not impossible. Zikhona Bota, a 29-year-old female currently working as an attorney started applying for work during her final year at University.


"I applied at every law firm I could find in Gauteng, but with no positive feedback, so I sent an application to one of the best law firms in Bloemfontein and was called for an interview," said Bota.


In 2019 she worked as a candidate attorney and was retained by the end of 2020.


She continued to send applications as a junior attorney, but with every application, she hit a wall, non-successful. With only two years of experience as a candidate attorney, she decided to open her law firm, Thusani B Attorneys Inc. Lack of resources and finances made it hard for her to run the company. In January 2022, she decided to try the job market again. Finally, on April 1 2022, she started her first day of work at a law firm that opened a new location in Sterkspruit, Eastern Cape.



"My advice to recent graduates is to work as if you have arrived, as if you're the big boss. Be confident, be curious, and have a great work ethic. People will always remember you for the work you put in." said Zikhona Bota.


Please note that this story has changed. The original version included a case that was factually incorrect and was removed. Two new interviewees, Ndlovu and Phala, were added.

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