Youth’s biggest challenge

2015-06-16 08:59
Miss Africa Tri State Nasiphi ‘Nas’ Sobahle

Miss Africa Tri State Nasiphi ‘Nas’ Sobahle (Supplied)

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TODAY’S youth are faced with a myriad challenges, but it is their lack of knowledge and preparedness about the realities of the outside world that worries experts most.

While youngsters from poor under-resourced schools may have little access to early career guidance, teenagers from affluent homes are equally unaware and lack understanding of what societal challenges lie ahead.

Meanwhile, the rise of cyber-bullying and a disregard for protecting private information online has concerned researchers.

Sharmla Rama, University of KwaZulu-Natal sociologist and lecturer in the School of Social Sciences, said issues faced by the youth are compounded by the need to find their masculinity or femininity, which can lend itself to high-risk behaviour such as unprotected sex or drug use.

“In Pietermaritzburg, as is the case around the country, we have seen an increase in violence among young people, particularly in the schools, including gun and knife violence.

“Once you get involved in behaviour that doesn’t lead you to a productive, positive life; you won’t do well at school. This increases your chances of dropping out,” said Rama.

She said this is compounded as not only are the youth then unemployed, but their lack of skills or qualifications makes them unemployable.

Stats SA’s youth unemployment rate currently hovers around 35%. The country’s National Youth Policy defines youth as persons from 15-34 years old.

Rama said added pressure on the youth is that many are ill prepared for entry to university.

“I can recount a conversation with one student who said that after an accountant spoke to her school and asked who wanted to be an accountant, almost everyone put up their hands, but nearly none of them took accountancy as a subject.

“Some first years in social sciences don’t even know what they are studying.

“It is clear that the youngsters aren’t receiving guidance at school level. This is needed not only in matric, but before choosing their subjects in Grade 10. There needs to be more funding and programmes to change this.”

Durban Youth Council chairperson Deon Botha-Richards said one of their primary functions was to give Grade 11 pupils “context of their world”.

The council works with about 40 predominantly former model-C and private schools, which comprise teenagers from wealthy homes.

“Many don’t know what is happening around them and they are unaware or don’t appreciate the benefit they have through their background or their school education,” said Botha-Richards.

He said while they were “excellent” communicators, using platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook to remain in touch, their knowledge seldom spilt over into the outside world, beyond their cocoons, and they seldom interacted with youths from other social backgrounds.

“Part of our yearly programme requires the pupils to run projects, and this includes working at Quintile One and Two schools [non-fee-paying schools that are generally under-resourced]. It allows them to see just how poorly resourced many schools are and the advantage that they have. They run these projects and raise funds to stock libraries, buy computers or even provide printers. We attempt to equip the pupils with skills they can use in later life.”

Both Rama and Botha-Richards said there is also a severe lack of understanding about online privacy.

Recently a Unisa study found that the Internet was accessed by 98% of youths aged 13-18.

Their research also found that girls were being targeted and asked to take lewd photos of themselves, while there was also evidence of sexual grooming and cyber-bullying. The report, titled “Online Safety Among ­Secondary School Learners”, surveyed 1 500 ­children from Gauteng.

“The youth are also not cognitive of the risk concerned with posting public information online,” said Botha-Richards.

Rama said the digital revolution has opened up communication, the research space and the world to communities who traditionally had no access to swathes of information. “The negative aspect is cyber-bullying, making it no longer an issue for the playground.

“The youth also don’t understand much about their privacy, such as sharing photos of themselves naked. Many are not aware of practising secure online behaviour,” said Rama

Read more on:    kwazulu-natal  |  youth day

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