Youth ready for the future

2013-01-20 10:00

Ours is a land of opportunity, they say, and education is crucial to the future success of young South Africans.

Seven out of 10 young people in the country are hopeful about South Africa’s future, despite problems raging from poor education to widespread unemployment.

A survey called Project Matchstick, conducted by First National Bank, drew responses from 1?360 young people between the ages of 10 and 22 in Gauteng, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

Although the researchers warn that disaffected youths were most likely not to volunteer opinions, they did say their results reflected those of opinion-leaders – outspoken young South Africans.

Respondents in all three provinces said the most positive feature of South Africa is that it offers opportunity.

They listed aspects such as having a career, buying homes, national sporting achievements and the space to realise their potential as factors contributing to their belief in the opportunities available to them.

Education was repeatedly cited as crucial to the future success of young South Africans.

It was also the most criticised aspect of South African life among young adults, many of whom felt that simply going to school was not enough – the schools needed to be better equipped.

Respondents across all regions ranked crime as the country’s biggest problem, with the strongest vote coming from Gauteng (45%), followed by the Western Cape (31.8%) and KwaZulu-Natal (31.3%).

Many felt that heightened crime was a symptom of a nation failing to provide adequately for its citizens.

All respondents expressed nostalgia for the leadership of former president Nelson Mandela, with young children in particular saying they were proud of the role he played.

The same could not be said of the current leadership, which received the least amount of approval and plenty of criticism.

Researchers said: “The dominant theme was that the government is failing to deliver on the promises it committed to deliver.”

Young people also believe that change and improvement cannot happen by watching from the sidelines.

“The youth want to receive more support and guidance to achieve the changes they believe are necessary to improve the country,” said the researchers.

There are far more opportunities today

Ilke Labuschagné (18), a jobseeker from Bloemfontein, is surprised by the possibilities open to South Africa’s youth.

“I officially started looking for a job two weeks ago and have already had two interviews,” she says.

Labuschagné says she scours the internet and newspapers each morning and that many opportunities present themselves.

“I am very fortunate because my parents will support me financially if necessary, but I don’t think that will be necessary.

“If I do not get a job soon I’ll start selling houses. Anything is possible if you put your mind to it.”

Labuschagné says she loves living in South Africa.

“It is a beautiful and vibrant country. I just get angry sometimes because the government does not look after poor people, as they promised.”

Labuschagné decided to take a gap year to first find her niche before she applies to study at university.

“I do not want to waste my parents’ money by studying while I am not sure exactly what I want to do.”

She says first prize would be a job that offered an opportunity to study further. Young people today, she says, have far more opportunities than their parents did.

“People should make the best of what they have and stop complaining.”

Education is the key

Mmadikgetho Komane (18), the nation’s top matriculant in 2012, says that education is the only way to ensure a brighter future.

The teenager, from Glen Cowie Secondary School in Limpopo’s rural Sekhukhune district, obtained 100% in mathematics, physical science and accounting and she passed her other four subjects with distinction.

Komane believes education is the only way that poor young people can free themselves from poverty.

“Education opens doors, you get more opportunities when you have an education,” she says.

“Although the standard of education in rural areas and in former model C schools is not the same, everyone does get an opportunity to study and amount to something in life.”

The department of education, she says, should come up with radio, TV and newspaper campaigns to highlight the value of education to inspire lazy youth to action.

She also blames some teachers for not giving their best in class.

“Some are more enthusiastic than others. Some don’t see the profession as the calling that it is.”

Komane, who will study actuarial science at Wits University this year, urged young people to “get off their bums” and push for good matric results to qualify for bursaries.

Youth must have a just-do-it attitude

Rodwill Abrahams (18) from Roodepan, Kimberley believes that opportunities do exist and young people should just grab them.

“You should get up and make your own way, because no one else will do it for you.”

Abrahams lost his father when he was a child and his mother died in 2008, leaving him and his younger sister orphaned.

“At the beginning of 2012 – in my matric year – I decided to drop out of school, but people encouraged me to go back and today I am not sorry,” he says, adding that he is planning to going to Postmasburg soon to see if he can find a job on the mines so he can support his sister and save money to study next year.

“I passed matric so I am positive that I am going to get a job,” he says, explaining that he didn’t have to go to bed hungry for a single night after he decided to go back to school.

“Neighbours and friends would send over a plate of food and were always willing to assist. Once you show people you are willing to work hard then they give you amazing support,” he says.

Abrahams says young people in South Africa are spoiled, with many choices and opportunities once armed with a matric certificate.

“Your opportunity is out there and it does not matter what the colour of your skin. All that matters is to know that what you put in, is what you are going to get out.”

Young people can have a voice

Kelly Sandra Baloyi (17) was born in Nkowankowa, Limpopo, the bi-racial daughter of Soweto father Ntsako Baloyi and his Cape Town-born wife, Sandra.

In Grade 5 she first confronted the subject of race and identity when her peers teased her because her father was black.

When she asked her father what she was, he simply said she could be anything she wanted to be.

In high school, Baloyi set up a cultural society for public speaking, debate, prose and poetry.

Her passion for making her voice heard landed her on the Cape Town Junior City Council, but she still felt she could do more and in 2011 began selling curry bunnies for the Stand Out Youth Campaign that she founded.

She is now her school’s first black head girl and next year plans to study law at the University of Cape Town.

Change starts with the youth

Bethuel Mabila (18) has just passed his matric. The teenager from Matsulu township outside Nelspruit believes that South African youth can make a change only if they are not sidelined.

Mabila is concerned about a “top-down approach” by which decisions are taken, particularly by the government, and young people are not given the chance to voice their suggestions.

He believes that decision makers should try to consult them and ensure that they participate actively when issues are on the table.

“Young people have fresh minds and high hopes of changing things for the better, but they should not be shut out. We must be given a chance to participate in places like Parliament and councils in order to influence decisions that are taken about the country,” says Mabila.

“You may have a brilliant idea to make a difference but, if you are not at the top with the politicians, no one will listen to you.

“We are tomorrow’s leaders.”

Youth must be part of the solution

Young people could easily help solve many of the country’s problems by focusing on their education, says Nonkululeko Mkhabela (18).

The Grade 11 pupil from White River in Mpumalanga believes that she and her peers have the right attitude to do better than their parents.

Mkhabela comes from a privileged background and attends a private school, but is sure that those pupils from townships and the rural areas who are faced with heavier burdens could also overcome their problems.

“We have ideas and strong points, so we can stand up to all the hardships if we work hard in our studies. Even non-privileged kids can be part of the solution through taking their education seriously,” she says.

“So, we have the power in our hands to change our circumstances.”

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