Are the youth of 2016 better off than their predecessors?

By Drum Digital
16 June 2016

In the last year Drum has reported widely on some of the issues and challenges that young South African’s are faced with today.

As the national remembers the plight of the youth of 1976, Drum investigates if the youth of 2016 are better off than their predecessors.

  1. The 16 June 1976 protest was against the introduction of Afrikaans as a learning medium in schools. Already, learners in South Africa were challenging the Bantu Education system which the apartheid government was using to oppress black South Africans through education. 2015 was a volatile year for students across the country who protested against the language issues they face at tertiary institutions. Notably, Afrikaans students at the University of the Free State, University of Stellenbosch, University of Pretoria and North West University, protested that Afrikaans should not be removed from their institutions as a medium of learning.
  2. Access to affordable quality education continues to be a challenge that young South African’s are faced with today.  2015 saw the uprising of young South Africa across race and gender protesting in unison for the eradication of tertiary education fees in the #FeesMustFall movement.
  3. Statistics SA revealed that youth unemployment was the highest it has ever been in 2015. The figures showed out 19.7-million working-age youth (15 to 34 years), 9.8-million were not economically active, 6.2-million were employed, and 3.6-million were unemployed.
  4. Teenage Pregnancy continues to be a challenge. Childline identified statutory rape as one of the reasons behind teenage pregnancy and children becoming sexually active from as young as age 12. The Department of Education introduced plans to make contraceptives available from as early as primary school level.
  5. Drug and alcohol addiction plagues every area of society, and the youth are not exempt.  Anti-Drug Alliance, an organisation that deals with addiction, treatment and research into drug addiction, says 15% of school going children are involved in substance abuse. According to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group, the use of cannabis can begin from as early as grade 10 while grade 11 learners were more likely to use alcohol than any other grade.  45% of school children are engaged in under-age drinking nationwide, more than 15% of learners in Kwa Zulu Natal have used drugs, while Western Cape had the highest number of alcohol abuse in Grade 11 learners at 71%.

Some of the positive things that young South Africans have achieved:

  1. Despite challenges with tertiary fees, the number of university graduates in South Africa has increased. According to the most recent report by the Department of Higher Education and Training, the number of Research Masters and Doctoral PhD grades increased from 4179 in 2009 to 6460 in 2014. Doctoral graduates increased from 1380 PhD graduates to 2 051 in the same period. The total number of graduates is expected to increase from 180 823 in 2013 to approximately 217 500 in 2019.
  2. Despite high numbers of unemployment amongst South African youth, out of 19,7 million working-age youth, 6,2 million are employed.
  3. The Global Entrepreneurship monitor shows that entrepreneurial interests are growing in South Africa, although they are not the best in the world. Statistics show that 40% of youth believe they have the capacity to start a business, 10% of whom have entrepreneurial parents. About 73,8% of youth believe entrepreneurship is a good career choice.
  4. In the area of entertainment, South Africa had its youngest nominee for a South African Music Award in 13-year-old Botlhale Boikanyo in 2015. She was the youngest winner of a South African Traditional Music Award for best praise singer and winner of SA’s Got Talent in 2015
  5. In the area of sports, the Under-23 Banayana Banyana national women’s football team qualified to participate in the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. The Amaglug-glug, youth male  national soccer team last qualified to play in the Olympics in 2000.

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