#YouthDay: 'What about a boy who is scared of initiation school?' - Frans Ntlemo

2016-06-17 07:48
Frans Ntlemo (Supplied to News24)

Frans Ntlemo (Supplied to News24)

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#YouthDay - Forty years ago, high school learners from all over Soweto decided to March against Afrikaans as a medium of construction. But today, young people have different struggles.

When I wake up on this morning my first thoughts are: "It's time to pick one of thousand ways to finish this day successfully, while thinking about struggle on the past that the youth of 1976 fought and thinking about the issues that we have as the youth."

Youth issues have become political issues: The crises of education and unemployment. Politicians use the 'youth' to further their campaigns during elections. They fail to acknowledge many of the struggles young South Africans face.

Think of the high school student who can't afford to go to school and has to support siblings.

Think of the university students pressured to sleep with lecturers (a form of sexual violence); struggling to pass an assignment; and what about a boy who wants to be a man by going to the initiation school, but scared after many of his peers died.

Young people are vulnerable to many health risks. Racism and discrimination remain serious concerns.

Teenage pregnancy, alcoholism and drugs are a massive threat. So is suicide. Our government has failed to recognise the many challenges that can define the lives of a diverse South African youth.

Young people cut their identity in a society that continually wants to categorize them according to gender, sexuality, race, and ethnicity or fit in instead of embracing who they are.

In 2015 something shifted inexorably at South African universities. Students protested against institutions, language policies, high fees, structural inequalities and colonial symbols.

Race and class lie at the heart of opposition to South Africa exercising an inclusive university system. Racism against black students and staff is prevalent.

Those who get the chance to speak on the issues of youth are discouraged by those controlling the power and continue to tell young people what to do.

Young people continue living, waiting, struggling, crying, hustling and even killing. While dealing with that, there are ever present dreams, ambitions and fears as they navigate an uncertain future in a society created by another generation... that largely remains in control.

To really honour Youth Day, society needs to stop trying to define "youth" as either a problem to deal with or an issue that can win the elections.

Young people need a voice in the future. That's what the youth of 1976 died for.

* Frans Ntlemo is a Grade 10 pupil at Sekano Ntoane High School in Soweto; one of the schools whose learners participated in the historical June 16 march 40 years ago.

- News24 will give the youth a voice on our platforms for Youth Day. A group of learners share their thoughts with you. What does Youth Day mean to you? Let us know your thoughts here.

Read more on:    soweto  |  youth  |  youth day  |  soweto40

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