Where are all the natives?
We are running out of educated natives.
No other demographic trend in education is more damning than this: not only are fewer South Africans coming through the school and university system, they are slowly being replaced by African immigrants.
Perhaps nobody noticed the consistent decline in the number of pupils entering the Grade 12 examinations: from more than 600000 in 2008 to just over 500000 in 2011.
Taken together over a four-year period, 2251555 students entered the matriculation year between 2008 and 2011, but only 1381020 eventually passed, a loss of 870535 youth who either failed or did not write. In the next year or two, that loss will rise to 1million young people lost since 2008.
The evidence of this collapse in numbers is to be found at the point of production of high-level skills at the end of the university cycle; that is, the doctorate.
Almost half the African women PhDs graduating from our universities are not South African.
In fact, the percentage share of foreign doctoral graduates in South Africa (27%), says a recent report, is higher than the share of such graduating students in Japan (16.8%), Sweden (20.6%) and the US (26.3%).
For a developing country, this is bad news. Of course, the rot starts in the school system: the fewer students who graduate from school, the fewer enrol in university, and even fewer still continue into honours, masters and doctoral degrees. The pipeline contains a slowing trickle of talent with dire consequences for a country that wishes to boost economic development by strengthening the base of human capital at the upper end of the training ladder.
The growth in foreign talent in our universities is of course a good thing, given that we have been isolated for too long from academic networks in other parts of the continent and the world.
Global universities thrive on borderless talent, not on some language or ethnic nationalism that consumes, and indeed destroys, institutions of higher learning.
But there is a serious downside to these numbers in a country obsessed before, and since, 1994 with racial nationalism. The growing number of non-nationals with PhDs comes from poor African countries and many would prefer to live and work in South Africa.
These are highly talented academics, professionals and business people who would slowly, but surely, occupy leading positions in the post-apartheid workplace. The problem, as indicated, lies in the feeder system, and this weak stream of students into postgraduate studies is particularly acute in the case of black graduates.
This trend is going to drive the government insane because it will not satisfy the native grunt for "Africans in particular" in the boardrooms of companies and senates of universities.
Recriminations will flow fast and furiously; whites will be to blame and coloureds will again be declared to be in over-supply.
Instead of putting their finger on the root of the problem, a dysfunctional school system for the majority, there will be pressure for solutions here-and-now and, in their failure to satisfy ethnic urges, expect a healthy outbreak of academic and corporate xenophobia. In other words, the resentment will shift from targeting Somalis and Pakistanis in township shops to targeting the African middle classes in the cities who come from elsewhere.
In the long term, we need, of course, to rebuild the school system so that more native students enter, write and pass the terminal examinations at higher levels of performance. There are no shortcuts to building a high-quality school system that feeds graduates into a high-quality university system that produces more postgraduate students.
These trends require a radically different strategy for securing South Africa's competitiveness in a global economy where knowledge matters more than ever before.
We should, in my view, follow the example of the next great global university, the Okinawa Institute for Science and Technology in Japan. The government subsidy of this world-class institution is dependent on meeting this critical requirement: fewer than half the professors must be from Japan.
When you walk into its labs, you are more likely to meet scholars from non-Japanese universities in countries such as Poland, Britain, Canada, Australia, China, Korea and the US.
When you enter the grounds of this prestigious campus you will be greeted by a world-class particle physicist who introduces himself as president of the university.
He is from Cape Town.