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Empowering youth

Written by Samona Naidu

Youth matters

Over the past 20 years government has stepped up efforts to educate the country’s youth and develop their skills.

South Africa’s youth has benefited from a number of National Youth Development Agency programmes that has helped better their lives.Through the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) - the agency created by government to tackle challenges facing the country’s youth - more than 2.2 million young people have received some form of assistance to date.

The agency, which was established by President Jacob Zuma in 2009, is the result of a merger between the National Youth Commission (NYC), which was established in 1996 and the Umsobomvu Youth Fund (UYF), established in 2001. Both the NYC and UYF focused on skills development, job creation and small business development for youth.

Despite these efforts, millions of young people remain unemployed and are not furthering their studies. According to the Twenty Year Review released by the Presidency, challenges such as poverty, inequality, unemployment, poor health and social ills such as teenage pregnancy and violence are the reasons behind the country’s high unemployment rate.

To tackle these challenges, the NYDA shifted its focus from enterprise finance to education and skills development, in May last year.

Since 2009, the NYDA has launched a number of campaigns aimed at improving the lives of youth by creating jobs, providing training opportunities, bursaries and business mentorship programmes, among others.

Grant Programme

Through the Grant Programme, the agency offers young entrepreneurs and youth cooperatives grants, ranging from R1 000 to R100 000.

The Grant Programme gives young entrepreneurs an opportunity to access both financial and non-financial business development support to establish their new businesses.

About R25 million has been allocated to the Grant Programme to help enterprises in 2013.

NYDA-Sefa-IDC GRO-E partnership

In 2013, the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and the Small Enterprise Finance Agency (Sefa) partnered with the NYDA to help young entrepreneurs through a R50 million youth fund.

The initiative aims to provide funding and support services to youth-owned businesses.

Youth between the ages of 18 and 35, who own their own business or plan to start one, can apply for funding from the IDC, NYDA or Sefa. Through the partnership young business owners receive professional coaching, mentoring and assistance from all three institutions.

NSC 2ND Chance Programme

The National Senior Certificate (NSC) 2nd Chance Programme, launched in 2011, gives young people who failed matric a second chance to get their National Senior Certificate.

The programme is as a result of a partnership between the NYDA and the Education Training Development Practitioner Sector Education Training Authority (ETDP SETA).

According to the NYDA, 4 500 youth will rewrite their Grade 12 exams at the end of 2014.

As part of the programme, learners receive tuition, career guidance and job preparedness training.

Solomon Mahlangu Scholarship Fund

About 250 young people from disadvantaged areas across the country are furthering their studies after being awarded bursaries through the Solomon Mahlangu Scholarship Fund.

The NYDA and the Department of Higher Education and Training each contributed R10 million to the fund, which is named after the late struggle icon Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu, who was executed under apartheid laws at the age of 23.

The fund covers all the costs of the beneficiaries’ studies including tuition, books, meals and accommodation. Bursaries will be allocated every year.

Limitless Youth Campaign

The Limitless Youth Campaign, launched in 2012, aims to encourage a positive mind set among the country’s youth.

It is a call to action to young people to have a ‘get up and go attitude’ by making use of the programmes and resources offered by the NYDA, private sector, government and civil society.

The campaign is a creative, informative way of interacting with young people through initiatives such as edutainment programmes in communities using performances, exhibitions and prizes.