Celebrating a bleak future of young people

2015-06-17 08:45

This year marks the 39th year of the Soweto students’ uprising, the event that exposed the brutality and thoughtlessness of the trigger-happy apartheid regime. Ironically, it is this brutality that worked to mobilise thousands of young people across the length and breadth of our country behind the struggle against white minority rule, the activities of 16 June 1976 also assisted in mobilising a sizable portion of the international community against the crime of apartheid. There can be no doubt that it was generations of young people who made a dream of a democratic South Africa a reality led by Tsietsi Mashinini.

As the youth of today we pay homage to the students of 1976, who sacrificed their lives so that the doors of learning and culture would be opened, and South Africa could be free.

However, when celebrating this month of young people, we should have a deeper look at the problem of youth unemployment secondly the remedies that can be pursued at the national level to tackle it and finally, radical economic transformational policies to complement and reinforce national policies to support growth and combat youth unemployment.

It is sad to witness that many youths still face the same problems as the generation of 1976. Despite the fact that we have made great strides since achieving democracy, unemployment, particularly among the youth, remains a major concern; we have young people in rural areas who are struggling to access information, who have no access to technology, who have no access to library and other educational resources. We must ensure that the youth play their role in terms of determining their future by assisting them to help themselves to become the leaders of tomorrow.

Today, unemployment among SA’s youth stands at more than 26.4%, the highest level since the dawn of this democracy. I am troubled to no end by the stark contrast between the benefits and promises that freedom brings with it and the harsh reality that many young people face in their daily lives. I know today’s generation is facing some of the toughest prospects in a very long time. Unemployment, especially of the young, is a blemish on our society. It has eroded talent, saps aspiration, and depleted dignity amongst young people. It is a multifaceted problem, and requires a multipronged solution.

Young people’s future looks bleak, filled with the promise of a better life for all, yet they continue to be underemployed, unemployed, unskilled, underdeveloped, disempowered especially poor youth of rural areas while our government continues to loot because it is too arrogant and undermines the poor. What has become a pervasive problem in SA, is the persistent unemployment which not only undermines economic activities, but also undermines young people’s self-esteem, and it tears at the fabric of society and institutions by breeding inequality and sometimes violence. Tackling the problem of youth unemployment is therefore a shared responsibility—between government, the private sector, and society as a whole—at both local and the national levels.

In essence, after we received a negotiated and restricted freedom, South Africa continues to remain external to its citizen; our government failed to connect with its citizens, it has become detached, arrogant and predatory. The state remains predatory and alien but in a new though equally repressive configuration wielded by new Black elites. The state has become an instrument by which certain Black elites enriched themselves at the expense of the citizens and the latter saw their rights being increasingly eroded by a state that failed to produce the most basic of services.

Moreover, since the dawn of South African democracy the struggle has been about self enrichment for those who are in power for material survival but not for the empowerment of young people in democratic government. With the kind of arrogant leaders South Africa has, and with vile ambitions to consolidate state power in their own hands for the mere love of it with no need to advance the people's power and interest, with no desire to give expression and meaning to democratic rule, they will keep tumbling.

A national youth month should become a festival of ideas, a month to refine and rebuild the South Africa youth character. Such festival of ideas should inspire us to resolve ourselves to lead a life where our character gets refined further, to dedicate ourselves to fight against high employment rate, challenges affecting young people and that our struggles are linked to the interest of the entire youth of this country and only then this month of young people can have relevance of youth and its freedom that can be a celebration of inspiration to take South Africa to newer heights.

As the month of June compels us to reflect and rethink the role of young people in the ongoing struggle for Economic Emancipation of Young Black people in the still settler-dominated Azania. We would do well to look the like of Anton Lembede, Robert Sobukwe, Steve Biko, Tsietsi Mashinini, Onkgopotse Tiro about the fundamental purpose of education for oppressed and exploited people.

Thus Biko's reflection on the inspiration and consciousness that culminated in the Soweto Student Uprising of 16 June 1976 remains instructive to all South African Youth. Infused with a strong sense of self-pride, self- definition and self-love, not even the apartheid military machinery could intimidate the Black-Conscious youth of '76. They were black, conscious of it and completely proud. They took to the streets to reject both Afrikaans and the system it represented.

Today, also, student struggles cannot be separated from the black condition and the system that sustains it. A black child from a poor black family becomes a poor student on campus. Campus social dynamics mirror that of the broader society. I’m afraid, that white privilege continues in this country, secured by the initiatives of white capital. Black people have been sold into this system by the usual collaborators -the equivalents of the non-white such as trichameral parliamentarians of the ruling party and leaders who claimed that they fought for black people.

21 years later, South African Youth remain unemployed. 21 years later, the Poor lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. 21 years later, the Youth is still suffering in the corners of South African society and finds themselves an exile in their own country. Indeed, government has failed its youth and it’s critical that something be done. Before we revolt as we did in 1976 but this time it won’t be about resisting the forceful introduction of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in Black schools but it’ll be about inequality, unemployment, corruption, poverty and lack of quality education.

76 generation made their voice of resistance to apartheid heard, and was determined to be listened to. Thus, a need for youth to wage a resistance towards the current leadership, in an attempt to challenge the balance of power, inequality, high unemployment rate and redistribution of wealth in society.

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