The Student Equity and Talent Management Unit (SETMU) institutionalised in December 2009 at the University of Witwatersrand aims to be the leader in Talent Recruitment, Selection and Development in South Africa.
The Student Equity and Talent Management Unit (SETMU) was established in 2007 as a pilot project with the intention of facilitating access to educational opportunities for previously disadvantaged young people. The unit was institutionalised in order to assist the university in developing strategic partnerships which actively contribute to the public good. The unit is now part of the School of Human and Community Development.
The unit has run and currently runs a number of programmes namely, Targeting Talent Programme (TTP),The Carnegie Bale Scholarship Programme (BALE), the Leadership, Education and Development Programme (LEAD), the Go to University to Succeed Programme (GUTS) and the BPSA Education Foundation Trust scholarship which started in 2015 and to date currently sponsors 39 Wits’ students. It intends to not only supply learners with high-level skills for university and, in future, the labour market but also aids their transformation into critical-minded graduates, who are able to reach positions of influence and make a significant impact on wider society.
RATIONALE AND CONTEXT
Since the birth of democracy in 1994, South Africa has made significant progress towards a non-racial, non-sexist society where universal human rights are protected by the constitution and there is the promise of equal access to opportunity. However, almost two decades later, the historical disadvantages created by the apartheid system, continue to adversely affect many South Africans, and South Africa remains a vastly unequal society.
The impact of the apartheid system on education in South Africa is arguably one of its most devastating, and its insidious legacy persists in the country today. The separate and unequal education provided to different sectors of the South African population according to racial classifications, was a central pillar of the apartheid system, a key to maintaining political and socio-economic control. Apartheid education created a system where the vast majority of schools lacked human and material resources and laid the foundations for the social inequity we see today in high levels of unemployment, poverty and poor educational outcomes for the majority of South Africans, despite significant financial investment (NPC, 2011a).
Quality education is advanced as key to the country’s progress towards increased employment opportunities, improved standards of living for the majority, and greater social cohesion and equality among citizens. Furthermore, there is growing recognition that higher education plays a central role in a country’s socio-economic development and advancement to global competitiveness. There is a significant need to develop the “capabilities of the historically disadvantaged to take advantage of the opportunities that democracy, openness and the economy afford” (NPC, 2011b, p.412).
To meet South Africa’s development needs, it has been argued that there needs to be an increase in the number of South Africans, particularly young black South Africans, accessing, and succeeding at, higher education. Furthermore, a focus on scarce skills and professional qualifications in the fields of science, engineering and technology (SET), which can contribute directly to infrastructural improvement and economic development, is imperative.
As part of the local higher education sector’s response to these challenges, the Student Equity and Talent Management Unit (SETMU) based at the University of Witwatersrand hosts projects which aim to increase access to higher education among South African youth, to encourage and support studies in the fields of science, engineering and technology, and to contribute to equity and transformation in higher education. In line with the commission’s recommendations and a fundamental belief in human potential, SETMU seeks to identify and build on existing talents among young people, frequently in disadvantaged communities.
SETMU acknowledges the notion that while innate abilities are important, the opportunities provided by society are crucial to the development of talents. SETMU embraces a fundamental belief in human potential and aims to facilitate access to opportunities for talent development among young South Africans, who may otherwise not have utilised their potential.