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NYDA takes development of youth to another level

NYDA takes development of youth to another level

Chris Bathembu

Photo caption: The National Youth Development Agency encourages youth to reach their dreams through the Limitless Campaign.

On 16 June, South Africa marks the 36th anniversary of the Soweto uprising of 1976, when students took to the streets to protest against a law obliging them to study in Afrikaans. The protest, which quickly spread to other townships across the country and resulted in hundreds of deaths, signalled a milestone in the fight against apartheid.

 

June, which is National Youth Month, not only commemorates 16 June, but honours all young people who lost their lives in the struggle against apartheid. The commemoration reminds today’s youth of the sacrifices made by their predecessors and draws attention to how far we have come since that fateful day in 1976.

This year, the third anniversary of the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) - a body tasked with creating opportunities for and advancing the interests of youth in the 21st century - coincides with Youth Month.

 

Successes and challenges

The NYDA was formed in a merger between the National Youth Commission and the Umsobomvu Youth Fund, and was mandated to promote co-ordination in youth development and to ensure that young South Africans are active players in and beneficiaries of the national economy.

The agency is also responsible for policy, research and development, providing youth advisory and information services, and access to funding.

According to NYDA chairperson Andile Lungisa, a former student activist and former ANC Youth League Deputy President, South Africa must give youth development the attention it deserves. “Let’s change the situation whilst we still have time,” Lungisa said.

He acknowledged that while much progress had been made since June 2009, more still needed to be done to rescue the country’s young people from unemployment and poverty.

For him it has been a remarkable journey with successes and challenges. Since its formation the NYDA has helped create more than 62 000 jobs and provided skills training to 24 000 young people across the country.

 

Policy guidelines

The NYDA’s National Youth Policy Implementation Guidelines encourage the speedy implementation of the National Youth Policy (NYP) 2009 – 2014 that was approved by Cabinet in 2009. The policy was developed to address the needs of the youth in South Africa and give young people access to opportunities.

One of the motivations behind the NYDA’s interventions is the fact that some Grade 12 learners are unable to read and write properly while some graduates aren’t even able to put together a job application letter.

The NYDA had decided to release the guide- lines after monitoring what Lungisa described as a “disappointing pace” of implementation. “So these guidelines will hopefully help, because the document gives both the public and private sector ideas on how to put youth development at the centre of planning and implementation of activities that inform their business continuously” said Lungisa.

 

Significant progress

Lungisa said the policy document made it clear how officials should play a role in mainstreaming youth development in all three spheres of government. It has been presented to Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane, with the NYDA also scheduled to meet President Jacob Zuma over the implementation of the youth policy.

“Section 6 and 7 of the NYDA Act gives the agency powers to coordinate and ensure that organs of State take into consideration the national youth development priorities in the activities of their business,” Lungisa said.

He said the  NYDA was  confident  that through systematic efforts, organs of State, private companies and civil society would be able to contribute meaningfully towards significant progress in matters of youth development.”

This will take place through the implementation of programmes and projects that are geared towards achieving the objectives of youth development in the country as described under the NYP 2009–2014 main policy imperatives. These are Education; Economic Participation; Health and Wellbeing; Social Cohesion and Civil Participation; National Youth Service and Youth Work.

Despite the Act being clear about the role of organs of State and the responsibilities of the Youth Agency and The Presidency in so far as reporting on youth development interventions by organs of State, the act needs regulations in order for its enforceability.

During the coming months, the NYDA will lobby for the amendment of the Act. Once the Act is amended and certain sections of it are enforceable through regulations that would have been developed and endorsed by Parliament, it would be possible to encourage organs of State, the private sector and civic society to do more towards a common agreed goal and raise youth development to a higher level.

In the meantime the NYDA has tabled an Integrated Youth Development Strategy and Plan (IYDS) before the Minister. The aim of the IYDS is to promote and guide a uniform integrated approach for youth development which is directly informed by the NYP 2009–2014.

The Minister is expected to take the IYDS through a Cabinet process of approval. Once it is approved, departments and/or organs of State will have to plan annually in accordance with the recommendations contained in the IYDS to advance youth development.