To commemorate Youth Day, the Mail & Guardian asked some young South Africans one question: “If you became President of the country tomorrow, what would you do?” This is what they said.
Ruvimbo Kaviya (15)
The first thing I would do is put more money into education and health. I’d also try to improve the housing situation. Education is important because all the young people are going to eventually grow up. They are going to be the future of South Africa. By putting more money into education, especially in poor places, it would help South Africa a lot. If people are more educated, they can live healthier lives, and they won’t have so many children. I think the HIV/Aids rate would also go down, as the youth would have something to do with their lives. I would make sure there is proper water and sanitation for RDP housing.
Siyabonga Beja (14)
I would try to build more houses. I would also create shelters for street kids, and old-age homes for grown-ups who don’t have a place of their own. When you walk around the streets you can see so many homeless people — including our elders.
Khanyisile Radebe (17)
If I were to be a president, I would make house music the national anthem. Every month there would be a one-day holiday, so that everyone can just take a rest. On a serious note, I would make sure tertiary education is free and accessible to all. University fees are expensive and many young people end up giving up because they know their parents cannot afford to pay for them. I would also build enough youth centres in the townships for young people to exercise their creativity.
Prince Ngwane (17)
Many people are without jobs in South Africa. As President I would ensure that people are employed. We don’t have a South African motor brand, so I would make sure we have our very own South African-designed cars manufactured here. That would create a lot of jobs. Electricity is a major thing in this country. And we are tired of blackouts, so I would also prioritise that. I would scrap Outcomes Based Education (OBE) in schools because it even confuses the teachers. There should also be grants for people who are not yet working. It would help them in the meantime. I would build proper RDP houses with big yards, similar to those that the apartheid government built. I would create more parks where children can play, and more art centres and libraries for kids in the townships.
Lebohang Kobedi (15)
If I was President I would change some of the constitutional rights out there. I think the law has to be harsher on criminals. Many come out of jail easily, and they continue to commit crimes, and that’s why I think we need the death penalty. If I could change a law I would make sure that it would be illegal to have an abortion under the age of 16. Teenagers who have children at an early age should take responsibility for their actions. One of the most important things for me is education and I think laws on corporal punishment should change. Children who are not disciplined at schools get away with a lot of things and this is wrong. I think the meaning of Youth Day has lost its value. Today it’s about partying and drinking and not about celebrating our leaders. If I was President, I would change that too.
Nolutho Mathuntuta (15)
I would build houses for the poor, but I would do more: I would make sure that they also get food. The first law I would change would be regarding child abuse. Criminals who abuse children do not get punished enough. If I could invent a law, I would state that children who are under the age of 16 should not be allowed to date. This would avoid teenage pregnancy. In fact, I think the legal age to date should be 25, because at least then you would be independent. In schools, I would make sure that the law stopping corporal punishment is kept. Some of our teachers are still too harsh. I think punishing children should be the parent’s role. I would also build better schools and RDP houses. The houses would be closer to town and they would be bigger and better than the ones we get now. They would have toilets and bathrooms indoors. I would offer bursaries to poor children so that they can get better education. I would also encourage a healthy lifestyle through health awareness campaigns which would educate people about disease and the importance of exercising.
James Midlane (16)
There are so many things to worry about. We get told in all our different classes about the problems. So biology we get information about STDs; Geography we get global warming; History we keep learning how mistakes are repeated; and Guidance classes we’re told how it’s our generation’s responsibility to try and fix things. It’s too much you know. If the adults running the country now can’t sort things out then how are we supposed to? I can’t come out of high school knowing what to do. I’ve got no life experience so I can’t work out how to solve any of our problems. So I wouldn’t want to be in power.
Thandi Mokaba (17)
There’s so much potential to use in this country if I could take over. Right now I wouldn’t be able to do the small details and boring things, but for sure I’d have ambitious plans that you don’t see with our government now. So many people have energy and good ideas and we don’t use them. Not just us young people in high school, but those of all ages. I think government’s problem is they don’t listen to everyone, they listen to their friends or just those in their party. I think it’s just their greed that stops them listening. They should listen to us, since one day we’ll be in places of power.