Defuse SA youth time bomb

2015-01-18 15:00

If wishes were horses, beggars would ride, goes the famous proverb.

The cynicism of the proverb reflects the attitude many South Africans have towards the government’s plethora of plans. The announcement of yet another strategy is usually greeted by yawns with citizens telling authorities to just get on with it. We are a nation suffering from strategy fatigue.

Given this, you can bet this was the reaction of many to the announcement by Deputy Minister in the Presidency Buti Manamela that the government was embarking on a national youth policy consultative process.

This process will culminate in the formulation of a five-year youth policy in three months’ time. Announcing the process this week, Manamela said the policy would contain strategies to increase youth participation in the economy, improve the skills base and fight social scourges affecting young people.

Manamela said this youth strategy should “produce empowered young people who are able to realise their full potential and understand their roles and responsibilities”.

It would be a great pity if this initiative was killed by cynicism and/or the state’s tendency to govern by pronouncement. The statistics Manamela reeled out this week make for scary reading and make action more urgent and imperative.

For instance, fewer than 4.3% of young people aged between 18 and 29 are receiving a tertiary education, 60% of unemployed youth are below 35 and have never had a job and 65% of students who leave the schooling system annually do so without a matric certificate.

Everyone knows the devil finds work for idle hands. We have seen countless images of youngsters at the forefront of service-delivery protests, seen the procession of young offenders through the courts and witnessed the tik and nyaope epidemics gripping the townships.

The time bomb is real. There is no room for cynicism.

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