Wait a minute – listen to Gen Y

2013-01-20 10:00

In the hurly-burly of another strike wave, two excellent sets of research provided key insights into the next generation, but passed largely unnoticed. The news is only good.

Those parts of South Africa’s Generation Y (the millenial generation), in both rural and urban provinces, are positive and independent.

They will make vastly different political choices to their parents and are engaged, interested and active citizens.

The Institute for Justice and Reconciliation’s annual barometer survey considered whether South Africa’s young people are the time bomb they are often written off as or whether they are a terrific democratic dividend.

Researchers found there is less to be fearful of and more signs of great hope. They are described by the institute’s analysts as “confident, active and creative”.

Great news.

It is reinforced by research commissioned by a bank, FNB, to inform its new campaign, launched this week.

Its research among switched-on influential young people in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and the Western Cape found that seven in 10 are impelled by the factor of opportunity.

Yes, many young South Africans feel ours to be an opportunity society, a finding contrary to how South Africa is generally understood.

Says the research: “The negative sentiment was outweighed by a prevailing sense of hope for the future of the country. At least 70% of young South Africans conveyed a sense of hope about the country’s future, regardless of the criticisms stacked against it.”

How wonderful. Here’s the rub.

Across both studies, the young people who responded reflect a lack of trust and credibility in all organised political formations, notably the governing party.

Corruption is a huge frustration. In the institute’s study, almost one in two respondents said they had witnessed an act of corruption.

The adults among us should bow our heads in shame at the finding.

The FNB study found young people outspoken and opinionated about the failings of government, most notably concerning corruption.

“The country is being overrun by poverty ... while Jacob Zuma is renovating his home,” said a male tertiary student from KwaZulu-Natal.

A high school learner in Gauteng remarked: “Our lives are being destroyed by people who have too much power.”

The shackles of old forms of relating between people and power are being broken and the two surveys show us how.

The news is only good.

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