To address a critical skills shortage in the veterinary sector the Health and Welfare Sector Education and Training Authority (HWSETA) today launched a Veterinary Career Guidance Awareness Programme and announced that they will be awarding no less than 60 Veterinary Science and Veterinary Nursing bursaries.
Internationally the norm is to have between 200 and 400 vets per million of the country’s population, while South Africa has around 60 to 70 vets per million. There is a shortage not only of vets, but also of paraveterinary professionals, such a as veterinary nurses, animal health technicians and veterinary technologists.
Further compounding the skills shortage, transformation of the sector is also lagging. HWSETA’s Chairperson Dr Nomfundo Mnisi said, “To give you an indication of the lack of transformation, the University of Pretoria produces around 160 veterinarians in a year and of that number only around 14 are students of colour. HWSETA, together with the Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, is committed to addressing this concerning issue.”
Speaking at the launch, Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Mr Buti Manamela said too few learners are matriculating with mathematics core and sciences which limits career opportunities. He added, “Why is it that learners with good results in mathematics and sciences, especially black young people, are not entering the veterinary sciences career path? Is it about misplaced perceptions of the veterinary sciences? It could also be about access to information and the myth that this profession is one that is reserved for young white people. We must work together to correct this wrongly held perception.”
HWSETA’s career guidance awareness programme is part of a broader campaign, “Breaking Barriers – Encouraging Black Youth to Take Up Veterinary Professions”.
The career guidance programme will be visiting numerous schools in rural areas across four provinces – the Northern Cape, Mpumalanga, Free State and Limpopo – to encourage learners to consider a career in veterinary services. The school visits will, amongst other things, feature talks by guests promoting the sector and an opportunity to see the career in action through a mobile veterinary clinic
Dr Mnisi believes that key to tackling the issue, is reaching out to students in rural areas where there is less awareness around animal health, which is why the programme will be going into rural areas. She explains, “The veterinary sector is not widely known across all sectors of society. Animal health awareness is especially poor in rural areas. It is important to create awareness around the concept of ‘one health’ which incorporates human health, animal health and the health of the environment.”
As part of the full bursaries announced by HWSETA, high school learners, at the schools involved, who meet entry requirements into the faculty of Veterinary Science and have a keen interest will also be awarded bursaries by HWSETA towards achieving their veterinary ambitions.
HWSETA also announced at the launch that all students of colour who are accepted to study Veterinary Science and Veterinary Nursing at the University of Pretoria in 2023, by 30 June this year, will also receive bursaries. Mnisi concludes, “Greater veterinary and paraveterinary awareness requires support by all sectors to ensure adequate education, training, mentorship, transformation and development.”