By: Kay-Dee Mashile
It is forty-three years since the 1976 Soweto Uprising and 25 years into democracy, yet the youth of South Africa are still in one too many struggles for freedom, free quality education and employment, to name but a few. The latter is often left as an open-ended question as to why this problem cannot be solved and whose responsibility it is to do so. In 2015, South Africa had a total population of 54.96 million registered citizens with 66 percent of those citizens considered as the youth, meaning that they were under the age of 35. In the past couple of years, the youth unemployment rate has exponentially gone from 40% to 55.2% (eNCA reports), this means that a large percentage of the South African population, in general, is unemployed.
While protests and demonstrations have yielded historic strides (June 16 and #FeesMustFall) for the youth as far as education is concerned, these strides have yet to translate into economic freedom and youth employment. Since the youth cannot just pick up posters and placards and go to the streets demanding for work, it is imperative that the young people of South Africa begin to make strides in the area of youth employment. With so many qualified professionals sitting in debt for degrees that will only sit on the wall of their parent’s living rooms collecting dust, we need to think beyond higher education and training for the answer to the unemployment problem. Perhaps the issue is that the question of what should happen after the degree is obtained is often left for the eleventh hour whereas it should be addressed even before the application is filled out.
Over and above it being the government’s responsibility to ensure that the young people of South Africa are employed, active participants in the country’s economy; it is also up to the young people themselves to choose to become job-creators and not job-seekers. In a day and age where it only costs R175.00 to register a private company, young people have an array of possibilities to partner up and create employment opportunities for themselves and others. A friend of mine joking said something that never left me while we were undergraduate students, she said: “Should our careers not work out, let’s start a business. Neo can be the Accountant, you can work with our community programmes and I will do the PR and Marketing…” these are the kinds of mindsets that university (and our entire education system as it is) discourages the youth from having. Yet we look at the youth unemployment stats each year and wonder where the solution is going to come from. Well, we are the solution (or as Sihle Bolani puts it, “we are the ones we need!”)
South Africa has an endless ocean of business possibilities and opportunities for the youth to partner up and explore. Instead of educating ourselves on the latest format of a CV, we should look into educating each other on the latest format of a business proposal. We need more entrepreneurial and skills education in our curriculum. And while it is the responsibility of the government to make sure that the gap is bridged, in the meantime, we must take it upon ourselves to volunteer and leverage any and every opportunity we get to acquire the kind of skills and knowledge that will aid us to not only generate an income for ourselves but also create employment opportunities for our fellow youth.
It has been time for quite some time now; we cannot sit and wait for something to be done to help the young people of South Africa. Vuk’uzenzele! The new trending question should be how many young people have you employed to date?
Photo Credit: Briefly