The South African youth today have a weapon their predecessors had no access to, a weapon they can use to speak on behalf of the elderly, children that are too young and themselves. Lessons from the past taught them to respect and embrace their role in society. Despite the present political and economic reality, they need to realise that the current circumstances are only a symbol of what their future will look like, if they don’t take advantage of the empowerment opportunities available to them.

The youth today have innovation and technology at their disposal. When used wisely the internet and social media are platforms they can use to voice their opinions, seek knowledge, formulate ideas and develop an entrepreneurial mind that can forever change their narrative, by growing the economy.

Parents eagerly wait documenting the very first day they will drop off their child at school. Why we may ask? Mainly because it marks the very first steps of the child’s independence. It is at this stage that they first learn to entrust that the job they have done at home will help integrate their child perfectly into an environment previously foreign to them. An environment they will spend most of their lives in and in constant interaction with others.

Youth is not met with half as much anticipation or excitement. Instead it is stacked with mounting pressure from parents, unrealistic societal expectations and over indulged versions of what our individual success should look like. If youth was met with as much fragility and guidance, surely adulting would be every child’s fantasy.

Celebrating Youth Month and Youth Day, draws us back to the fragility and strength youth possesses. They might have been young but the sacrifices the youth on June 16, 1975 made, secured a future for South Africa they had only dreamt of. Youth Day commemorates the Soweto Uprising, where more than 20 000 pupils from Soweto began a protest march against the brutality of the apartheid education system, the youth showed great defiance in the face of injustice. The protest led to clashes with the police and violence erupted within weeks of that protest, approximately 700 people were killed. Many of them youths.

Four decades later, a lot has been done by the government to rectify the mistakes of the past and provide equal opportunities for all South Africans.

This year marks 44 years since the uprising, and this month is dedicated to strengthening the country under the difficult circumstances of the Coronavirus pandemic and skyrocketing unemployment rates. Led by the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with disabilities (DWYPD) and its agency, the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) in partnership with the department of Sport, Arts and Culture (DSAC). The 2020 Youth Month will be commemorated under the theme: “Youth Power: Growing South Africa together in the period of Covid-19”. All activities taking place during this year’s youth Month including Youth Day commemoration, will take place virtually through various platforms such as Social Media, Web-based seminars (Webinars), Online, TV and Radio.

The youth can use all the activities celebrating youth month, to interact and discuss with those in a position to offer more assistance. These celebrations also give the youth direction with regards to who they can approach to get certain information even after the youth day celebrations.

Virtual activities taking place to commemorate youth day will be a good platform to also hold the government accountable for all the promises they have made to empower the youth, they can engage in conversation through social media and really discuss some of the more serious challenges they are facing on a daily basis. Presently, we are living in difficult times consumed with negativity, highlighting positive milestones and accomplishments will show how far we have come as a nation, since the Soweto uprising.

Over the years there have been policies that were put in place to empower the youth. Youth month should be used to reflect and react to the progress those policies have made, in as much as empowering them. The first draft of The National Youth Economic Empowerment Strategy and Implementation Framework (NYEES) 2009- 2019 addresses several socio-economic challenges being faced by the youth .

South Africa has a very young population, with about a third of the population being between the ages of 18 and 34 years. NYEES is a plan that commits the Department of Trade and Industry and its relevant stakeholders on the promotion and economic empowerment of young people in South Africa. It builds up on the foundations and recommendations of the National Youth Development Policy Framework (NYDPF) and the Youth Enterprise Development Strategy.

The key characteristics of the policy are setting aside procurement quotas for youth-owned and managed enterprises, encouraging provincial and local government authorities to formulate youth economic empowerment strategies and to ensure youth representation in National Small Business Advisory Council and other smaller bodies.

While also scaling up financial and non-financial support and services to youth enterprises, building stronger partnerships with the private sector and banks. Another key element is developing monitoring, evaluation and reporting systems to be used for youth economic empowerment.

Another key tenant in the broader youth representation is The National Youth Policy 2015-2020 which was developed for all young people in South Africa, with a special focus on redressing the wrongs of the past and addressing the specific challenges and immediate needs of the country’s youth. During the 2019 World Economic Forum, South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa revealed that the country would be investing more in programmes to equip youth in schools and colleges with digital skills that will boost their future employment prospects, in turn growing the economy.

The following youth development programmes are something all the youth in South Africa should know about: The Youth Empowerment Service (YES) is one of the first social initiatives between government, business and labour created for the sole purpose of giving one million youth, one million opportunities to succeed, while securing South Africa’s prosperity. The YES programme will incentivize business to hire youth and give them opportunities to gain experience and knowledge. This initiative is a fresh and bold approach, responding to our country’s unemployment crisis that the youth, corporate community, SMMEs and skills providers can get involved in.

Research says by 2050, a quarter of the world will be African and 40% of the world’s under-18 population will live in Africa. Which is why Junior Achievement (JA), South Africa believes that the youth of South Africa need education and training to boost their careers and economic development. This is a richly layered educational experience programme that takes passionate achievers from the ages of 18 to 35.

The theoretic and practical programme teaches them to establish their own sustainable business, the programme lasts for three to four months. Students are introduced to a collection of entrepreneurial concepts that will inspire them to build their business with confidence. Students will start their own business in an incubator-style programme while receiving support and being introduced to micro-finance institutions as options for funding.

The National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) grants funding to young entrepreneurs in South Africa. The programme will be broadening the scope to include mentorship and development initiatives. Youth in South Africa can apply for this grant funding regardless of their business being formal or informal and in either the startup or development phase. NYDA awards grants to youth- owned businesses that are actively involved in community development and facilitation projects.

The South African Breweries (SAB) Foundation Programme is dedicated to growing the South African economy with a particular emphasis on youth, women, entrepreneurs with disabilities and entrepreneurs in rural areas. The SAB Foundation is an independent trust that annually invests millions of rands towards developing entrepreneurship in South Africa. Special attention is paid to a youth entrepreneur who shows potential and commitment to grow a business and create jobs.

The Innovation Summit came about because of the lack of progress in the South African tech sector. The idea was to help the tech entrepreneur break into new industries, start ups, and the private sector while enabling government absorption of new ideas. It’s a great opportunity for tech entrepreneurs to showcase their innovative technologies.

The month of June is dedicated to the youth of 1976, who stood up against the apartheid government and laid down their lives fighting for freedom and the right to equal education. The youth of this generation has also inherited the spirit their predecessors had, evidently seen in their fight for Universities to stop increasing student fees, and the government to increase funding in Universities. Known as the “Fees must fall movement” it was initially started by the leader of the University of Witwatersrand’s SRC, Shaeera Kalla in 2015.

The campaign saw other Universities joining in between the period of 2015-2016, they marched to the union buildings demanding free education. Despite much being achieved since 1976, a lot more still needs to be done to provide educational freedom and access to education without barriers. As high quality education has a major influence on social mobility.

The youth of today are also fighting against gender based violence that has swept across South Africa.

This movement was triggered by the horrifying murder of a 19 year old University of Cape Town student, Uyinene Mrwetyana. On September 5, 2019 tens of thousands protestors marched outside the Cape Town parliament because they felt more needed to be done to end this culture of violence against women.

Unfortunately the country is still plagued by gender based violence, as the president mentioned in his recent speech addressing the risk-adjusted approach to the national lockdown regulations. He noted that gender based violence needs to be considered a second pandemic in South Africa as it is as serious as the Coronavirus.

It’s clear that presently the country is dealing with a lot, but what’s even clearer is that the internet and social media are very powerful tools. Opportunities to be discovered lie on social media and the greater internet or digi- economy, the di-gi economy gives young people opportunities to learn from like minded peers, promote their business, get inspired to come up with new ideas and also challenge the thought process.

The youth are the future leaders of society, leaders have to constantly adapt and adopt effective skills, they don’t sit around, waiting for someone else to enforce change, they lead towards change like the youth of 1976 did. 

Tavonga Jacqueline Manyonga

By admin