The reluctant gardener
When Bongani Mtolo graduated with his accounting degree in 2011, he dreamt of a new house, financially supporting his family and working in a field that he loved.
But the 27-year-old, the first in his family to undertake tertiary education, now earns R70 a day as a part-time gardener and painter.
Mtolo, from Folweni, south of Durban, is among the country's 62% unemployed youth.
But judging from statistics, his accounting national diploma, BTech in cost and management accounting, and Pastel accounting certificates would give him more job opportunities than unemployed youth without tertiary education.
"I have sent so many applications to banks and accounting firms over the years. But they don't call back or tell me to wait until a position is available. Without a job I cannot take the board exam," he said.
Mtolo started working as a gardener and painter when he realised that his dream job "may just be a dream".
"My marks were good. There were people in my class with better marks who also don't have jobs. I had to work, so when my friend asked me to join him, I agreed," he said, adding that he didn't want to sit at home like many of his neighbours.
"Without a permanent job, I can't even pay back my National Student Financial Aid Scheme loan."
But Mtolo has not given up hope.
'"My mother was there when I graduated. She was very proud of me. She tells me to keep trying, so I am going to keep trying."
Stellenbosch University economics professor Servaas van der Berg said at an aggregate level, graduate employment was still exaggerated.
"There are not very many people in the situation you sketch, compared with the many thousands who do have jobs. But that does not distract from the fact that there are - and always will be - people for whom finding employment is difficult, even with a degree."
Roxanne Dallas, managing director of recruiter Mass Staffing Projects, said in an economy with a high unemployment rate, how one applies for a job could be almost as important as qualifications.
"It seems no one is shown how to apply for jobs. We get applications with no cover letters, e-mails that say "plz cl me", with no documents.
"In this environment, he needs to ask himself what sets him apart from his peers and use that to get himself in the door," she said.