Call to action as country’s youth face bleak reality

Published Jun 18, 2024


Many young people expressed that there was no reason to celebrate Youth Day amid ongoing challenges including high unemployment rates, poverty, hunger, drug and alcohol abuse and mental health.

Youth Day commemorates the sacrifices of South Africa’s youth in the fight for democracy, an event immortalised by the Soweto Uprising of June 16, 1976.

Highlighting some of the challenges faced by young people, including StatsSA data which showed a 45.5% unemployment rate among 15 to 34-year-olds, the Rational Youth Movement’s Doctor Shange said: “There is no reason for us to celebrate, we have been marginalised. The political sector doesn’t speak to the challenges faced by young people.

There is high unemployment among young people so they resort to crime. Those who promised to change our lives, the politicians have let us down. Young people are resorting to drugs and crime as a way out of poverty and unemployment.”

He said young people needed to rise and fight for policies that would change their lives.

Parkwood Community Upliftment founder Max Swartz Amansure said more focus also needed to be given to mental health issues faced by young people. For youth day the organisation held a play-date event for 150 children.

“The pressure that comes with the day-to-day lives of young people has an immense negative impact on their mental health and nobody is talking about it. The issues are not looked at at grassroots level.”

He said in their community the vulnerability of youth started even as young as 11, where in some cases, children had already become sexually active.

“We try our best to intervene early to try and prevent teenage pregnancy.

Drug abuse among young people is also escalating on the Cape Flats. They are using lean and new stuff that has come on the market.”

He added that it was challenging operating an NGO in the current climate. They were struggling with a lack of resources and government red tape made it difficult for them to access funding to render their services.

Speaking at the 48th anniversary of Youth Day at Old Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane, Limpopo, deputy president Paul Mashatile said the country could not move forward without the youth.

“In working towards achieving the National Development Plan 2030 vision, which aims to eradicate poverty, we need to keep in mind that young people make up more than two-thirds of the population, making them the biggest community.

“We are all aware of the challenges that the current generation of youth face which include poverty, social inequality, poor mental health and high levels of unemployment. The National Development Plan places youth at the centre of our country’s development, correctly arguing that youth participation in our development initiatives is critical to meeting our growth targets.

“As a result, we must include young people in discussions that influence their current and future growth. I urge all stakeholders, including business, civil society, and labour, to work with the current government to address all issues affecting young people,” Mashatile said.

Cape Times