On Tuesday, February 21 , Dr. Thomas Feist (MP) arrived in South Africa with the aim of gaining a deeper insight into the Vocational Education and Training programmes in South Africa. Dr. Feist himself is a perfect example on how as an artisan you are able to have a great career.
Starting of as a heating engineer in the former Germany Democratic Republic, he later on received a PhD in musicology and since 2009 serves his constituency Leipzig as member of the German Parliament, the “Bundestag”.
Due to his unusual career path, Dr Feist feels strongly about vocational education. As a member of the Committee on Education, Research and Technology Assessment his policy areas are Vocational Education and Training and Academic Internationalisation. During his visit he was able to assess the current situation in these fields in South Africa and draw comparisons with Germany.
His visit started off with a briefing and welcoming meeting with the Deputy German Ambassador, Mr. Klaus Streicher and further colleagues from relevant fields. Here, Dr. Feist was able to receive a thorough understanding of what partnerships already exist between South Africa and Germany especially within the field of vocational education.
Besides exchanges with colleagues from GIZ, the visit to the Ekurhuleni East College (EEC) in particular offered first-hand experiences with apprenticeship programmes. This was complemented by a visit to the BMW plant in Rosslyn, where Dr Feist learned about the company’s comprehensive education engagement to produce highly skilled individuals supported from an early age.
On a political level, he moreover visited the Department of Higher Education and Training where he met with the Director- General Gwebs Qonde and Deputy Director-General Firoz Patel to discuss future partnerships between South Africa and Germany in the area of vocational education.
Considering Dr. Feist’s background as an advisor for musical-cultural education at the State Youth Parish Office of the Protestant-Lutheran Church in Saxony since 1995 and his studies in musicology, sociology and theology, he was also very interested to engage with cultural and faith-based organisations. Therefore, the visit to the Outreach Foundation in Hillbrow, Johannesburg, formed an essential part of his diverse agenda. The NGO is located in an old German Lutheran Church and offers underprivileged youths a safe place where they can express themselves through art, music or drama.
Furthermore, Dr. Feist - an active member of the Protestant Church – also made a point to meet with the ‘Evangelische Lutherische Johannesgemeinde Pretoria’ (Protestant-Lutheran Church Pretoria). This German church offers a large range of activities for its community. Having studied theology and being a member of the Protestant-Lutheran Church in Saxony he felt right at home and even decided to spontaneously join their youth group that meets every Friday evening.
Another crucial element of Dr. Feist’s programme was a visit to the Goethe-Institut in Johannesburg, which presented their great variety of activities and engagements within the country and beyond, such as festivals, art exhibitions or the ‘I am science’ project encouraging young girls to experiment with safe little science projects.
Of great significance was also the participation in an event at the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria where scholarship holders of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) presented themselves, their inspiring stories and what they have already accomplished until today thanks to the support of DAAD. The event was filled with many extraordinary stories and brave scholars wanting to make a change in their lives and on the continent.
All in all, Dr. Feist’s visit was of great importance not only for himself and Germany, to receive insight into the vocational education and training system of South Africa but also for the institutes he visited. They received further information on how apprenticeships work in Germany and which funding or other possible partnerships between the two countries exist or could potentially be fostered.