Challenging inequalities through policy relevant academic research.


August 2020

Dear Friends,

In our August newsletter, we highlight some of the excellent work that our team is doing under the Siyaphambili project. Led by Dr Nicola Branson and funded by the Kresge foundation, the team have been making excellent progress on various data-led research initiatives on Higher Education in South Africa. This month they have launched an interactive website to track and monitor post-school qualifications attainment in South Africa. The objective of this exercise is to provide timely and relevant information, which will allow for monitoring the evolution of skills in the country, and how these skill levels relate to those needed to achieve the country’s labour market targets. It is an important and hopefully very useful project, and one that reflects the depth and breadth of technical expertise in our little unit quite beautifully.

We also have a short write-up and link to an amazing interview with our charismatic and visionary founder, emeritus Prof. Francis Wilson. Together with his wife, Lindy Wilson, they reflect on several important moments and experiences in their journey through some of South Africa’s most difficult periods. It is both historically informative and quite inspiring, and we are extremely proud to have Francis as part of our team.

Despite being scattered like the wind, we continue to function as a team and do the work of an active research unit. Siyaphambili was recently awarded a grant from the Spencer Foundation, to investigate the effects of the COVID-19 health crisis on inequalities in the South African tertiary education sector. J-PAL Africa continues with their work in the Teaching at the Right Level project, and Saldrupians released new publications on youth unemployment and education.

Best wishes,

Murray Leibbrandt
Director, SALDRU
Vimal Ranchhod
Deputy Director, SALDRU

Siyaphambili: A Stronger South African Nation Website

Image: Siyaphambili website.

The Siyaphambili post-school research group in SALDRU has just launched an interactive website to track and monitor post-school qualifications attainment in South Africa. The Siyaphambili website was funded by the Kresge Foundation and was inspired by the Lumina Foundation’s Stronger Nation interactive website, which tracks American qualifications beyond high school. The graphs on the website are based on an analysis of publicly available StatsSA data, and the tables containing the values shown in the graphs are downloadable in Excel format. A strong motivator behind this website is the need to share information and create awareness about our country’s skills needs. Read more about the motivation behind the website, the indicators that it tracks, and how these indicators were derived.

Siyaphambili awarded a Spencer Foundation Research Grant

Image: Mohammad Shahhosseini on Unsplash.

The Siyaphambili research group has been awarded a research grant by the Spencer Foundation to investigate the effects of the COVID-19 health crisis on inequalities in the South African tertiary education sector. The project aims to deepen the understanding of inequalities within and across tertiary education institutions in South Africa, by examining measures of student-body household and community characteristics, and what these mean for designing remote learning and teaching solutions in the future. Additionally, the impact of remote learning on student outcomes will be investigated, as well as how the move to remote learning may have shifted the demographic composition of students applying to and enrolling in tertiary institutions. As an introductory analysis to the data on university and college students’ access to remote learning resources across local municipalities, the researchers construct a remote learning indicator based on the municipality that students are from. Read more.

Awakin Calls interview with Lindy and Francis Wilson

Image: Awakin Calls.

Awakin Calls is a volunteer-run organisation which holds weekly podcasts and webinars of in-depth conversations with individuals from around the globe, who they believe to be inspiring and transforming the world. Earlier this month Awakin Calls interviewed Emeritis Professor and SALDRU founder, Francis Wilson, together with his wife Lindy Wilson. In conversation with David Bonbright, Lindy and Francis speak through their journey of returning to South Africa in the 1960s; their respective professional lives in South Africa which included filmmaking, teaching and economic research; and how they used these to play a role in activism. They explain how making use of freedoms that their white privilege allowed them, despite the oppressive apartheid system, allowed them to contribute in some way to the struggle against the apartheid regime. Francis reminds us that we can, “Use one’s privilege to eliminate that privilege”. Listen or watch the interview or read a summary about the interview.

Basic income grant could make a big difference to women

Image: Mohamed Hassan on Pixabay.

This month Kim Jurgenson and Murray Leibbrandt published an article in Business Day which argues for the need for a basic income grant in South Africa. This argument is made in the context of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on an already precarious situation for many, but in particular, for women. Read the article.

Focusing on the foundations as children return to school

Image: TaRL Africa.

As the COVID-19 crisis is expected to widen the gap between children who have access to learning resources outside of school and those who do not, teachers are likely to return to classes with an even wider range of children's preparedness in their classrooms. This will make their jobs even more difficult and risk even more children being left further behind. The current moment presents a unique opportunity for governments, NGOs, and multilaterals to go a step beyond ensuring school re-entry to achieving learning for all – including the most disadvantaged. Drawing on decades of rigorous evidence and practical experience, TaRL Africa (a joint venture between J-PAL and Pratham), the Douglas B. Marshall Foundation, Innovations for Poverty Action, J-PAL, Pratham, and Young 1ove; recommend two evidence-based actions to support foundational learning for all: i) conduct simple, fast, low-stakes learning assessments and ii) focus on foundational skills. Learn more and add your name.

Evidence-based approaches to tackling recent increases in gender-based violence


Many countries have witnessed a surge in cases of domestic violence due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent stay-at-home orders. A range of interventions have shown promise in reducing intimate partner violence, including: cash transfers aiming to reduce financial stress in the household; gender training sessions to change social norms about gender-based violence; and media campaigns to encourage reporting and change social norms. J-PAL Global’s Lucia Diaz-Martin and J-PAL Africa’s Alessia Mortara summarise key lessons in a recent blogpost.


Why Is Youth Unemployment So Intractable in South Africa? A Synthesis of Evidence at the Micro-Level

South Africa is faced with persistently high youth unemployment levels, despite significant investments into a variety of Active Labour Market Programmes across the government, private and civil society sectors. The intractable nature of the challenge called for a systematic synthesis of evidence to better understand what contributes to the issue and inform policy and programmatic direction. The authors undertook a systematic and robust synthesis of existing evidence published between 1994 and 2018 concerning the factors that contribute to this complex problem. This enabled them to consider where the balance of evidence lies, what gaps remain in our understanding of the challenges, and point to the important role that evidence synthesis methods can play in informing planning. A key finding is that emphasis remains on supply-side features of the labour market, with little attention paid to the behaviour of employers, and that the gendered nature of the labour market is poorly understood in relation to youth. The lessons learned from the South African context may be important when considering other middle-income contexts with similar youth unemployment challenges. Access here.

Citation: De Lannoy, A., Graham, L., Patel, L., & Leibbrandt, M. (2020). Why Is Youth Unemployment So Intractable in South Africa? A Synthesis of Evidence at the Micro-Level. Journal of Applied Youth Studies, 1-17.

Developing Siyaphambili: A Stronger South African Nation Website - Moving towards a unified goal to combat inequality and unemployment

This SALDRU report by the Siyaphambili post-school research group presents the background work done in developing the Siyaphambili website introduced earlier in this newsletter. The paper provides a motivation for the any post-school qualification and high-value qualification indicators that are used on the website. It also describes how the Goal 2030, which is tracked on the website, was derived. The authors provide further context for how the indicators are defined by describing the South African education and training system, and unpacking how post-school education is measured in South African household surveys. Finally, the paper reports on the analysis presented on the website. Access here.

Citation:  Branson, N., Culligan, S., Ingle, K. (2020). Developing Siyaphambili: A Stronger South African Nation Website. Moving towards a unified goal to combat inequality and unemployment. Cape Town: SALDRU, UCT. (SALDRU Report 20/01).

For more SALDRU working papers, journal article contributions and policy briefs, please visit OpenSALDRU.

SALDRU seeks a Junior Research Fellow

Image: Vishnu Vijayan on Pixabay.

SALDRU is inviting applications from suitably qualified and experienced persons for a Junior Research Fellow to work together with SALDRU researchers across a range of projects focusing on the post-school sector. The successful  candidate  will  be  involved  in  original  empirical  research,  publishing,  collating  and  facilitating  access  to administrative data, report writing, capacity building and training, and applying for funding grants. The application date has been extended beyond that published in last month’s newsletter and applications now close on 7 September. Apply.


SALDRU Seminars

Please note: In order to decrease risk and spread of the COVID-19, as well as aligning with the university's decision on minimising gatherings, all SALDRU seminars are cancelled until further notice.

For information about past and future seminars, click here. To subscribe to our seminar mailing list, click here.
UCT News, 30 July 2020
UCT-led programme responds to critical need for youth support
Copyright © 2020 SALDRU, UCT, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp