Young people have an incredibly important role to play in our country. We find ourselves disillusioned by the 23 years of a democratic dispensation as we look towards politicians who continue to make promises for youth employment and opportunities. We might not have witnessed the injustices of Apartheid, but we certainly bear the brunt of its after effects. Young people have for far too long tolerated the current trajectory of poor governance and slow economic growth. In the past year alone, South Africans, especially the older generation have witnessed on their television screens the activist power and innovation of young minds coming together for a collective cause.
According to a report by the South African Broadcast Corporation (SABC), "South Africa's lawmakers are getting younger, with almost 40 percent of the 400 strong Parliament made up of young MPs below the age of 35. This is the highest number of youth MPs since 1994, with the youngest MP just four years older than democracy". The youth are simply fed up. To compound matters, the 'Vulnerable Group Series I: The Social Profile of the Youth 2009-2014' released by Statistics South Africa revealed deplorable findings of the 2009 to 2014 profile of youth survey on Monday.
In the survey‚ unemployment among the youth increased, with 38 percent of youth with a matric certificate‚ 1 percent have a university degree and 4 percent have a qualification other than a degree. These statistics send chills down my spine, as it should for all politicians and political parties. These statistics serve as a wake-up call for young people. It is time to come to the fore, kick political apathy to the side and take to the knowledge centres across the country to remain informed and to participate in the political processes. Statistician General Pali Lehohla added, "It remains twice as difficult for a black African and coloured graduate to secure a job than their colleagues graduating from the same university."
Young people are left hungry, heading up households and face immense challenges in trying to lift themselves out of poverty. The task ahead is not easy. Indeed it is all easier said than done – but for how much more longer do we wait on politicians and institutions for change. Business and the private sector, too, have a role to play in absorbing young people into the labour market. But not enough is done to incentivise corporations to employ us. Young people, especially in rural areas in the country, have little to no hope when it comes to seeking opportunities. Their counterparts in urban areas fair better yet face different challenges. Of the South African youth, 72 percent have a mobile phone – young people can and will make use of social media and technologies available to them to mobilise and unite to have their voices heard.
There are so many youth organisations, leagues, brigades and formations, with self-centered agendas that do not speak to the current challenges facing youth in the country. As the Statistician General delivered this report on young people last year, I was saddened by the conditions we are facing and have faced with very little to insignificant change that has taken place. The DA is the only organisation that has thus far come up with a plan to lift the forgotten youth out of poverty and into skills and training development. The DA's rescue mission for the lost generation is to build a better tomorrow for young people because too many of them live a life of hopelessness, despair and desperation. This rescue mission will free young people to take their destiny into their own hands, to be owners of wealth and capital, to climb the ladder of opportunity and to succeed.
Young people should come to the fore, play a role in politics and use their vote to effect meaningful change.
The rescue mission is twofold and will build skills for jobs by offering a year of free technical training to all matriculants, introducing opportunity vouchers for young people. These vouchers will be used to subsidise university or TVET college fees and provide seed capital for microenterprises. The reintroduction of teacher training colleges will ensure teaching excellence and ensure that the quality of learning and teaching is significantly improved in schools across the country. The DA aims to invest heavily in government internship programmes and by introducing a comprehensive youth wage subsidy which will incentivise the hiring of young, low-skill job seekers. The poorest students will be comprehensively supported by an expanded NSFAS.
The missing middle who cannot secure funding or bank loans will receive support proportional to their family income. Furthermore, by upscaling the existing expanded public works programme to offer temporary employment and skills training, young people will benefit by obtaining the skills required to enter the job market. Far too many plans and programmes have been developed with very little to none of them implemented. The DA's plan is a work in progress, it is a living plan which is flexible enough to address challenges as they arise in various communities, urban and rural. Young people have and will always be able to innovate, seek better opportunities and as we have learnt in North Africa, topple a government.
Fees Must Fall, Rhodes Must Fall and others have mobilised outside of political organisations, rightfully so, however in order to preserve and protect the hard-won freedoms and to uphold our Constitution, young people should come to the fore, play a role in politics and use their vote to effect meaningful change. The onus rest upon ourselves to come up with solutions, step up on our soapboxes and ensure we effect change in order for our children to one day grow up in a South Africa in which they do not face the same challenges we have.