To enjoy the full Mail & Guardian online experience: please upgrade your browser
Sam Matome Bopape
29 Jun 2016 11:49
The government has built 795 schools, about 78 new libraries in addition to the 304 that have been upgraded. (Madelene Cronje/M&G)
In scrutinising the turning point of the youth
commemorations, we should be alarmed by statistical predictions that by 2020
young people will constitute about 70% of the total population in Africa.
With the current 60% of our country’s citizenry being young
people, it becomes even more crucial for the government and private sector to
invest in this sector of our society for they are our future.
During this 40th year anniversary of youth struggle for
equal opportunity, we call on “young people to move South Africa forward”. We
remember the likes of Tsietsi Mashinini, Seth Mazibuko, Khotso Seatlholo,
Mbuyisa Makhubo, Tokologo Legodi, Antoinette Sithole, Hector Pieterson and many
other young fearless combatants who paid the ultimate price of death for the heroic
and revolutionary role they played in objecting to the discriminatory apartheid
We also acknowledge the progress achieved in transforming
our education system in particular and society in general.
It’s important to encourage the youth of today to know the
horrible experiences of the past, such as the events of June 16 1976 and
This enriches our history and reminds us that our democracy
was not attained on a silver platter.
It was achieved through a fearless and at
times bloody struggle across our country and around the world as the
international community condemned apartheid as a crime against humanity and
lent its support to liberation movements.
Furthermore, art centres such as Freedom Park and the Hector
Pieterson Museum, erected to preserve this horrible history should be opened
even more widely, for young people to learn more of our struggle for freedom.
We dare not forget the brutality and inhumane character of the apartheid regime
at the time.
The dawn of democracy in 1994 saw the shutting down of death
factories and the opening of the doors of education of all, providing young
people opportunities to realise their full potential. But, we still need to pay
attention to the remaining challenges facing young people today, such as
unemployment, lack of adequate skills, HIV and Aids, teenage pregnancy, drugs
and alcohol abuse among others. All of these challenges require no ordinary
solution but a new sense of urgency. The establishment of the Ministry for
Youth in the Presidency, the Ministry of Small Business Development and the
reconfiguration of the National Youth Development Agency among others, continue
to indicate government’s commitment to respond to these aforementioned
Young people fall into the period of life from the beginning
of puberty to the attainment of adulthood. This period is usually attended by
many problems as they “struggle” to fit themselves into society. The
word “problem” doesn’t necessarily imply that youth is assumed to be
a period in which storm and stress predominate, it can be a period marked by
good health and high achievement.
The most fundamental problem facing young people today is
unemployment. Consequently, the challenge of unemployment means more financial
worries, frustration and discouragement. Unfortunately many may not be
sufficiently mature to cope with such problems, as a result they go in the
undesirable direction of delinquency, drugs, vandalism, criminality and so on.
As a result of this reality they would then compensate for
their feelings by taking part in public protests and at some point destroying
the very same infrastructure developed to improve their living conditions. These
problems are invariably compounded by peer pressure whereby young people are
forced either consciously or unconsciously to become involved in those
The demographic trends, such as an increase in youth
populations that do not coincide with commensurate employment or other
opportunities for growth and personal development, will ultimately exacerbate
the multidimensional risk factors such as increased poverty and inequality,
unemployment, inadequate services and health provisions.
Addressing the challenge of youth
unemploymentThe National Development Plan envisages that in 2030, the
economy should be close to full employment, equip people with the skills they
need, ensure that ownership of production is more diverse and able to grow
rapidly, and provide the resources to pay for investment in human and physical
Government continues to create an enabling environment for
investment in our economy through the adoption of progressive policies, working
together with the private sector through various structures such as the
National Economic Development and Labour Council, the labour and business
working groups to mention a few.
In this regard, the government has established the
employment tax incentive to further create an enabling environment for youth
employment creation. Furthermore, government has set aside an amount of
R1.7 billion to provide support for small and medium enterprises owned
by young people.
While acknowledging these important initiatives from
government to combat the curse of unemployment, such as the internships and
contracts jobs, other methods that can be adopted include measures aimed at
creating conditions that reduce unemployment. These would include programmes
for retraining in order to provide young people with new skills that are in
demand. Secondly, subsidies and other incentives to encourage workers to move
out of areas of labour surplus into areas in which labour is in short supply
could be explored.
One other method that can be adopted to curb the problems
that arise out of unemployment among young people, involves providing relief or
protection from the financial hardships of unemployment. For instance, a
compulsory unemployment insurance system could be adopted in which workers and
their employers contribute to a fund out of which payments are made to those
young people who are eligible for work but cannot find work instead of the
low-key youth wage subsidy that would perpetuate values of oppression and
Increasing access to educationGovernment has further built 795 schools, about 78 new
libraries in addition to 304 that have been upgraded. Moreover, about 80% of
our public schools are now no-fee schools and 9 million children are
exempted from paying school fees. Currently, about 9 million children
receive free meals at school as hunger must not prevent children from poor
households from performing at their optimal level in school.
Furthermore, the government is also building three new
universities and 12 technical education colleges to expand access to higher
education. To create access to higher education for poor and academically sound
students, government has increased the National Student Financial Aid Scheme
allocation to R2.3 billion in 2016.
This encourages young people to strive for high education in
order to qualify for the very skilled labour force required by industry such as
in construction, engineering, science and technology. Our country should also
assist young people in the development of entrepreneurial skills.
An area of huge concern, and which poses a problem for young
people and their parents is sex and dating, which brings about problems of
teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Some parents today are
prepared to give their children some latitude as far as dating and sex are
concerned. In contrast, some parents are very overprotective, restricting their
children from going out with the opposite sex, thus, many young people are
prevented from learning the valuable experience of adjusting to other persons.
Another serious matter affecting our youth is the abuse of
drugs and alcohol. Indications are that between 7.5% and 31% of South Africans
have an alcohol problem or are at risk.
In this regard, parents, schools and the church are urged to
play a meaningful role in deepening the adopted charter of good values and
promoting wholesome relationships.
In conclusion, there is no such thing as a lost generation,
it is a generation that must find its way more comfortably and productively in
a rapidly changing country and world. By investing in a focused and strategic
way in this generation, we are guaranteeing a great future for our country.
Oliver Tambo once said: “The children of any nation are its future. A country,
a movement, a person that does not value its youth and children does not
deserve its future.”
South Africa stands to benefit immeasurably across all
elements of the social fabric when we invest in the development of our young
Sam Matome Bopape is a former youth activist and
currently working in the Presidency. He writes in his personal
Create Account | Lost Your Password?