In a country where youth make up an overwhelming (and growing) majority, it makes sense that there should be a plan for them. A plan that shows commitment from all areas of society: government, civil society and business. Most, importantly, it is essential that youth are empowered to feel that their future is literally within their hands and that they feel encouraged to participate meaningfully towards this.
The National Youth Policy is one such “plan”. It is a key tool and has great potential to contribute towards overcoming many of the challenges youth are currently facing. In addition, it can lay a good foundation for generations to come.
During January 2015, the Deputy Minister in the Presidency, Buti Manamela launched the draft of the National Youth Policy (2015 – 2020). In his invitation for comments, Manamela emphasised the importance of making sure that youth are an integral part of this process, “as architects for their own future”.
The draft policy outlines the following areas as priority:
Economic participation – youth empowerment as the core of the economic transformation agenda
Education, skills and second chances
Health care and combating substance abuse
Nation building and social cohesion
Optimising youth machinery for effective delivery and responsiveness
Recommendations from youth
This kind of invitation for young change drivers, like members of the ACTIVATE! network, is gold. As many are already involved in starting, running or contributing to change in their immediate surroundings – whether it be in their community, province, nationally or globally.
Throughout the six weeks of consultations, Activators have either been gathering, facilitating or joining discussions around their thoughts on the draft policy and extending this through engagements with the Presidency on social media.
Any policy that aims to fast-track youth development needs to be radical in thinking. This is something that hasn’t come through in this draft – without a review on the success of the previous policy (2009 – 2014), it is difficult to get a good sense of what the draft is based on. Such a policy must embrace who youth are (from age, access, diversity of needs), understand the underlying realities many grapple with and explore mechanisms that are often overlooked to support their success. In the ACTIVATE! network, for example, is understanding that many young people are already actively engaged and require resources and support to drive change effectively. Here the government and its ‘machinery’ could be a useful partner.
The National Youth Development Agency and the South African Youth Council are named as the two primary vehicles to guide the implementation process of the NYP, despite their track record of “non-performance and challenges”. This policy will require a far more robust machinery and it is essential that any strategy adopted as part of it, is cognitive of this. And that the necessary support and specific turnaround plan
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Active participation during this process goes without saying, especially in the back of a State of Nation Address (SONA) that appears to be vague on how to exactly tackle ‘the youth challenge’. Youth must take the lead in influencing how the government can assist in addressing their issues.
It is expected that Minister in the Presidency, Jeff Radebe will sign off on the policy at the end of March and an implementation plan will be presented to President Jacob Zuma. Then the real work will start to ensure that all that is “dreamed” in the policy is turned into reality.