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Creating opportunities for SA youth

Written by Amukelani Chauke
The youth of South Africa must follow the example of the Class of ’76 and become builders of the country by aiming to be entrepreneurs who will play an active role in the economy.

The National Youth Policy 2015-2020 will give young people a chance to prosper and contribute to building the economy.This is according to National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) CEO Khathutshelo Ramukumba, whose comments come at a time when government is finalising the National Youth Policy 2015-2020 (NYP 2020) that will play an important role in developing the country’s youth.

The NYP 2020, crafted together with young people from across the country, is expected to help shape the youth into active and productive citizens and also reposition the NYDA to make it more effective in dealing with youth matters.

The policy focuses on four key areas: economic transformation and participation, education, skills development and second chances, health care and combating substance abuse and nation building, social cohesion and active citizenry. According to Statistics South Africa, the youth make up more than 40 per cent of the population and 36 per cent of them are unemployed.

The NYP 2020 will help to deal with this challenge through youth development programmes that respond to the needs of the youth – programmes that allow young people to take charge of their own future.

NYDA CEO Ramukumba told Vuk’uzenzele that the NYP 2020 was good news for young people as it would help them to take their rightful place in the economy.

“I think the challenge that young people should take up today as their own challenge or defining moment is the struggle for economic transformation,” he said.

In June 1976, students from several schools were brutally executed by the apartheid regime when security police opened fire at unarmed learners who marched the streets of Soweto against Bantu Education, which compelled teachers, amongst other things, to use Afrikaans as a medium for tutoring in several subjects.

A picture showing the lifeless body of Hector Peterson, a young boy from the Morris Isaacson Primary School – shot by well-known photographer Sam Nzima – sent shock waves around the world.

Ramukumba said compared to that group of young people, today’s generation was more fortunate because more of them were educated and had access to opportunities to develop themselves.

“My personal take is that 21 years into democracy, a black child or an African child cannot be going to school to get education to get employment only.

“A mind-set of an African child must be one that says entrepreneurship is an alternative to employment so that they are able to be employers, they are able to be owners of the economy of their own country and that they are able to be builders of their own country.

“That to me is a struggle that young people of today must take up as their own struggle in order to achieve economic emancipation in their lifetime,” he said.

Youth policy under the microscope

The cosultations with young people gave young people a chance to not only make inputs into the policy, but it was also an opportunity for young people to take stock of progress made in implementing the commitment of the NYP 2009-2014.

“So it gave us an opportunity to say what have we prioritised in the last five years and have we achieved what we committed ourselves to but equally, an assessment of whether the material conditions of all young people have changed since then.

“If the material conditions of young people have not changed, then we need to come up with new solutions for addressing the challenges and for creating an enabling environment,” he added.

Ramukumba stressed the need to create an environment that would encourage youth development.

“In my view, an environment should be created for those who want to go to school to be able to go to school. Equally, those who for one reason or the other, fail to obtain their matric, must be provided with an opportunity to get a second chance so that we don’t write off their future.

“Those young people who have fallen off the education system and don’t have the education to be able to gain meaningful employment or skills to offer to the job market must be given an opportunity to gain skills, expertise or trade that they can offer to the job market.

“Beyond that, for the skills that they may have, support must be provided for them to go into entrepreneurship so that they can be able to participate in the economy, whether they chose to work or start their own business,” he said.

New jobs plan in the pipeline

Ramukumba added that a panel of experts had been appointed to look into all sectors of the economy to see which industries can absorb young people into the jobs market. These industries include youth development across all government spheres, the private sector, non-government organisations (NGO) and community-based organisations.

The panel will draft a plan that would look at the challenges and growth targets in the National Development Plan (NDP) – government’s vision and policy framework to develop the country by 2030 – to see which existing programmes can help young people get jobs.

“This employment plan will practically say which projects should be run – informed by the need to grow the economy as we understand it from the NDP between now and 2030 and then say which areas or which industries must be focussed on to create more employment for young people,” he said.

The panel of experts consists of professors from various universities as well as officials from Statistics SA and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

Ramukumba said that the NYDA had, through all of its programmes, helped with youth development.

“Statistics show that of the businesses that are registered with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC), only 30 per cent of them are able to sustain themselves beyond a period of 12 months. “We have been offering the National Youth Grant programme for two years and over this period, we have conducted a review of those businesses that were funded through the scheme.

“Our research shows that 54 per cent of businesses that were funded through our grant programme have been able to survive beyond 12 months,” he added.

For more information on the National Youth Policy 2015 - 2020 visit: www.gov.za