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Interview with Maluti TVET acting principal

Maluti TVET spearheads 4IR innovation

According to research, skills development is the best way to bridge unemployment and, as a result, government encourages students to take up technical and vocational training (TVET) as their first choice field of study. This way, they will not wait for employment after they have completed as they would have acquired enough skills and experience needed by employers, to become entrepreneurs in their own right.

It is in the light of this that The Guard newspaper caught up with Acting Maluti TVET College Principal Motlalepula Tsotetsi to find out more about the college’s vision in terms of bridging unemployment and preparing students for the labour market and entrepreneurship.

Could you give us a brief background about yourself

My name is Motlalepula Tsotetsi. I was born and raised in Qwaqwa. I’ve always been in the TVET sector. I’ve moved through the ranks from lecturer, senior Lecturer, HOD (Head of Department), campus manager up to deputy principal until this position. I did my BeD with the University of the Free State, then my postgraduate diploma in education at the University of Pretoria in 2020 through funding from the department of higher education and training and the Technical University of Munich (TUM) in Germany. There was a collaboration there and I was part of the first cohort that was given the chance to be part of this programme.

As acting principal, what is your vision for Maluti TVET College?

My vision for this college is incorporated into the main vision of the college which talks to entrepreneurship, changing lives, and skills development. We are looking at the success of the students who enrol at the college. This sector is guided by three components which are theory, simulation and work experience. Ours is to make sure that the students are theoretically prepared in terms of the courses we offer and our curriculum. Another very important element is simulation where we offer students workshops and it is my responsibility to make sure that we have the resources necessary to conduct these workshops. Another key component is the work experience where we have partnered with local businesses to give our students the opportunity to be exposed to the world of work. Therefore as the head of this institution it is my role and responsibility to make sure that these three learning components flow seamlessly into each other.

What makes Maluti TVET College stand out from other institutions of higher learning?

Our college is strategically placed in the Eastern Free State where our key strengths in terms of the province’s offerings to the economy are tourism, hospitality as well as agriculture. Our campus at Bonamelo offers students tourism and Lere la Tshepe has offerings in hospitality. Our campus in Sefikeng offers students primary agriculture, where our focus is on farming and food security. We have embarked on growing maize, dry beans and some livestock such as sheep and cattle. The produce will be accessible to the community through the drive of entrepreneurship and growing the local economy. Our college has been awarded for the seventh time the PMR Africa Golden Arrow award for being one of the institutions in its sector during the past 12 months doing the most to stimulate the economic growth and development of the economy of the Free State. We are proud to say that our programs have been modified and developed to focus on our local economy.

What role does technology play in Maluti TVET College?

When it comes to innovation and technology we want all our campuses to be centers of excellence and specialisation. Our department was previously known as the department of higher education and training but has been changed to the department of higher education, science and innovation. At Kwetlisong we have established the 4IR resource center which will be launched very soon by our principals. Currently four of our programs at Kwetlisong are accredited by QCTO (Quality Council for Trades and Occupations). The issue of innovation has been birthed by the high unemployment rate because we as an institution realise that the only solution is for the youth to be innovative and come up with new ideas that will drive the economy. In terms of e-learning we requested that the college gets an assistant director and an assistant for e-learning. The issue of using online learning has been brought to the fore by the COVID pandemic therefore it is important for our students to access their learning materials through e-learning platforms.

What other offerings do you have for students that are not academic?

We participate in a number of sporting activities provincially, nationally and otherwise. People should not underestimate Maluti TVET because we were able to beat Orlando Pirates 4-1 in a soccer game held at Charles Mopeli Stadium. We have a holistic approach to education, because we know that some parents look at the sporting activities offered by the institutions that they enrol their children. We know that some students may end up pursuing a career in sports that is why we have integrated some sports codes such as athletics, soccer, basketball (male and female), table tennis, and volleyball into our college.

How has the Thabo Mofutshanyana District Municipality IDP (Independent Development Plan) influenced the structuring of your programmes?

The college has centered some of its programs around the Free State growth and development plan, the TMDM IDP, hence our focus on tourism and agriculture. Our partnerships and linkages with different stakeholders drive the college’s activities around IT skills, the future skills. We are responsive and engaging a number of communities so that we can support students wholeheartedly. We have partnered with SEDA (Small Enterprise Development Agency) to open an entrepreneurship incubation center that focuses on manufacturing and is accredited by the services seta.

What are some of the achievements of the college during your tenure?

I cannot attribute the achievement to me because it has been a team work of collective efforts. The improvement from qualified qualification to unqualified qualification in 2021 financial year. Secondly, is the investment in the 4IR that is milestone because it is various equipment in 4IR and a very recent equipment. Another one is signing of MOU with Central University of Technology where we will be getting two computers and some of machinery from CUT.
Could you elaborate on the college’s participation in the World Skills International Competition.

We have a student who is a runner-up in the World Skills International Competition In Electrical installation. What is key is that besides the different stages of the competition this student is fortunate enough to be at the preparation training offered by stakeholders in the competition. In the long run this student will gain the skills and experience that come with this prestigious opportunity. They will walk away from this experience having gained a lot in terms of knowledge, skills and development. This is made possible by Maluti TVET College.

What challenges does that the college face and how does it navigate its way around them?

It is often said that we, TVET colleges, are training students for unemployment, that some of our courses are no longer relevant.

How does the college cater for students with disabilities?

During examinations we ask for concessions from the department so that our learners with disabilities can make proper arrangements for their exams. We also have sign language interpreters at the college, as we have an SRC member with a hearing disability. We also provide students with gadgets that they need to help them with their learning process.

How do you keep yourself grounded and focused on your vision?

When you are dealing with skills development, seeing change in the lives of our students is what keeps me going and motivated. In the main ours is to see skills training and development, in the past years we have seen stability at our college, through the various partnerships with different stakeholders. The key element of this position is to be able to see that you are working with different hands to achieve the vision. Therefore everyone in the college is important to the whole. It keeps me going to have people who give their best to their given roles and we get to celebrate the achievements of individuals by sharing the same vision and mission.

What do you attribute the stability of the college to?

Collaboration is key because with these hands so much is achieved, when people take ownership of their role in the college more is achieved. Also platforms of engagement where we can discuss issues and find solutions to problems is very important.