Government should speed up the introduction of free quality public education, the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) said on Friday.
"The time has arrived for the current generation to demand progressive political, social, and economic policies that will emancipate and extricate them from the cycle of poverty," Nehawu spokesman Sizwe Pamla said in a statement.
The union urged the country's youth to reflect during Youth Day celebrations on Saturday on sacrifices that were made for their freedom.
"The freedom we have was not handed to us on a platter, but was paid for in blood by Hector Peterson and others.
"Young people should lead the fight against the triple crisis of poverty, unemployment, and inequality," Pamla said.
"They cannot afford to be spectators who sit on the sidelines and hope for the goodwill of the state."