As the month of June comes to an end, the question begs if it will be sunset on the spotlight shone on the condition of the youth in South Africa.
Will the vibrancy, energy and focus on the realities that young people face be shelved only to be revived next year in the month of June? The answer to this question should be a resounding no.
25 years after South Africa was ushered into a New Democratic dispensation the realities facing young people remain as current as ever. Gang violence, poverty, unemployment, crime, lack of equal education and substance abuse are some of the challenges undermining youth progress.
“These are issues facing our society day in and day out and government, business, the media, civil society and all structures in our communities should not pigeon-hole them only to dust them off and herald them only in the month of June,” said Tshepo Mogapi.
“While the country’s annual Youth Month is in June to commemorate the anniversary of the 1976 Soweto Uprising, the struggle for a better quality of life for the country’s youth continues every day,” added Mogapi.
He encouraged young people to be at the forefront of agitating for implementation of policies and programmes that are youth oriented. “We are the ones that will inherit the future. We must participate fully and responsibly in creating it. We should be at the forefront of efforts to empower young people,” he said.
Clarence Maite said a good place to start is maintaining momentum for equal, quality education in the urban and rural societies. “Despite the efforts being made and progress achieved over the last 25 years of democracy, far too many children still Labour under less than ideal education conditions in our country. Due to hardships like lack of infrastructure some end up dropping out even before they reach matric,” said Maite.
“We must work with our leaders and make a strong case to increase the budget of education, especially in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. That is the key to a better tomorrow,” added Maite.
Efforts to uplift and provide opportunities for young people should be an everyday pursuit. The key to solving the vicious cycle of poverty, inequality and unemployment is in constantly a challenge for young people.
The percentage of unemployed youth exhibits the unemployment crisis in South Africa when compared to the global average. The 2016 Youth Development Index reported that South African youth currently make up over one-third of the population, while the average figure for developing countries is approximately a quarter.
This means South Africa must not only account to a larger portion of youth, but the current generation of young people will be vitally important in preventing the future population from facing the same challenges.
-Adapted from a press release