Confronting our social defects to equip the youth

South Africa is a United Nations Member State. The UN has recently officiated the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Over the next fifteen (15) years, with these new Goals that universally apply to all, SA among others will mobilise efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities, and tackle climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind. We’ll thus implement the 2030 SDG, the Africa We Want 2063 Vision and others concerning SA’s development.

An unprecedented number of world leaders recently emphasized the role of youth in shaping a better future in their national statements during the UN General Assembly.  59 countries highlighted the importance of youth development and participation, recognizing young people’s contributions to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to international peace and security. This is what leaders had to say:

South Africa: President Jacob Zuma recalled key developments in South Africa’s history, such as the 1976 youth uprisings, which “highlighted and cemented the role of young people in fighting for liberation and a better society.” This example, he stated, is similar to the theme of this year’s General Assembly debate on “Sustainable Development Goals: A universal push to transform our world,” recognizing the power of youth in improving our world.

Our global development partners (BRICS: Brazil, Russia, India and USA) had these to say:

Brazil: President Michel Temer highlighted the need for stronger support to young people’s education in his country. “We must also turn our eyes to minorities and other more vulnerable segments of our societies. This is what Brazil has done, by means of cash transfer programs and better access to housing and education, including financing for students from poor families.”

Russian Federation: In his address, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov: “It is necessary before it is too late to dwell on the task to prevent the proliferation of terrorist and extremist ideology, which literally holds the youth hostage in various regions of the world. We are drafting a UN Security Council resolution aimed at mobilizing efforts to eliminate this evil and looking forward to your support of our initiative.”

India: Minister for External Afffairs, Sushma Swaraj focused on India’s efforts empowering young people through technology training and education opportunities. “Digital India is transforming the country. Under the Skill India initiative, a number of programmes are underway to enable youth to reap the demographic dividend. These initiatives have added a new dimension to India’s growth story, making it the fastest growing major economy in the world at a time of slow global growth.”

United States of America: In his statement, President Barack Obama (Now Former President) praised young people’s commitment to education and entrepreneurship, as well as their strong feelings of empathy toward others. “Entrepreneurs need to access information. In order to invent, young people need a global education in order to thrive. I have seen that spirit in our young people, who are more educated and more tolerant, and more inclusive and more diverse, and more creative than our generation who are more empathetic and compassionate towards their fellow human beings than previous generations.”

Because we’re a growing economy still recovering from our bitter past, we need to confront our social defects before they raise their ugly heads again.  South Africans are travelling all over the world, seeking better opportunities and sometimes we’re finding ourselves in difficult circumstances.

As a result, we shouldn’t unfairly demonise ourselves in SA, but seek to understand that every country has its own prejudices, its own sense of superiority or exceptionalism. We also need to come-up with innovative ways to possibly incorporate the symbols of our past into our present SA in an effort towards building an inclusive future.

For a large part of our own, SA is one country that has dealt with compromises. It’s one country that has not been able to frame its own history and its own narrative. We have spoken enough about ‘reconciliation’ even though there hasn’t been much reconciliation. We thus need to talk more about ‘the reconciliation of the economy, the haves and the have-nots, reconciliation between those who were privileged and those who were underprivileged under one roof.

We also need to acknowledge and celebrate our own heroes and heroines, not Mandela alone. People like Jafta J Masemola, Robert Sobukwe, Es’kia Mphahlele, O.R Tambo, Kgoshi Marishane, Kgoshi Mampuru, Lillian Ngoyi, Govan Mbeki, Chris Hani and Bantu Steve Biko among others who fought against the apartheid regime for the liberation of South Africa and its people.

With 80% of the people in SA being black Africans, we must not apologise about teaching our youth about their African history. In fact, we owe it to them.

We thus need to capacitate our educational sector, to properly serve the interests of our people. We’ve proven to be strong in the primary economy, but we must have trained professionals to move us into the secondary and tertiary economies. We should be able to provide high level services and manufacture our own goods, even cars!

The reality is, we have structural inequality and structural unemployment because the economy hasn’t been able to absorb labour. So in essence, we’re presented with a very sensitive but unacceptable reality, whereby not only are there people who have never been employed, but also, a huge probability of having people who may never work and this is why we need radical robust transformation.

Koketso Marishane writes as an active concerned citizen. 

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