The young people of today may not be fighting against an oppressive apartheid regime like the youth of 1976, but they are still faced with many challenges.
To commemorate Youth Month, the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), together with the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities (DWYPD) and the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, have lined up activities to highlight the plight of the youth.
The events will celebrate the gains made since 1994, take stock of challenges and look ahead to the future.
Youth Month 2021 is being commemorated under the theme: 'The year of Charlotte Mannya Maxeke: Growing youth employment for an inclusive and transformed society'.
This year marks 45 years since the student uprisings of 16 June 1976.
Speaking at the launch of Youth Month, Minister in The Presidency responsible for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities Maite Nkoana-Mashabane called on all sectors of society to join hands with government to reduce youth unemployment.
“We cannot ignore our youth, if we are to see our society progress.
“Therefore, all of us must play our part in creating an inclusive society that allows engagement, improves the mental health of youth and people with disabilities, and increases access to economic opportunities for the youth,” she said.
The Minister added that government recognises the power and ability of the youth.
“We therefore continue to invest in youth development programmes through agencies such as the NYDA to bring positive changes to the lives of the young people of our country.”
She said the NYDA is well-placed to recognise the challenges faced by the youth and to spot the potential of young people.
“The Presidency, working with the DWYPD, continues to work across government and private and social partners to coordinate and drive an integrated plan to create two million new jobs for young people during the next decade, over and above average job growth.
Entrepreneurial and skills opportunities
Minister Nkoana-Mashabane urged young people to seek entrepreneurial and skills opportunities.
“We believe that with the available opportunities, young people can become job creators and not only jobseekers.”
“We also need women, youth and people with disabilities to explore the possibilities and opportunities that our country has.”
President of the South African National Youth Council Thembinkosi Josopu said the challenges the 1976 youth faced were different to the ones faced by the current generation.
“Today’s youth don’t need petrol bombs, they don’t need stones, but they need knowledge. As young people, we must now invest in knowledge production, in finding solutions to the problems facing our country,” he said.
The 2021 Youth Day celebration will be held at Harry Gwala Stadium in Pietermaritzburg on 16 June in the form of a Presidential youth dialogue.
During the celebrations, President Cyril Ramaphosa will reflect on the progress made in the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention, which was launched during the 2020 State of the Nation Address.
Why we commemorate Youth Month
In 1975, protests started in African schools after a directive from the then Department of Bantu Education that Afrikaans had to be used on an equal basis with English as a language of instruction in secondary schools.
The issue, however, was not so much the use of Afrikaans, but the whole system of Bantu education which resulted in separate schools and universities, poor facilities, overcrowded classrooms and teachers who were not properly trained.
On 16 June 1976, more than 20 000 pupils from Soweto began a protest march. Due to the clashes with the police, and the violence that followed during the next few weeks, about 700 people, many of them youth, were killed.
16 June was declared Youth Day in 1994, to remember those who died and suffered, and to also celebrate those who carry the students’ legacy and principles of selflessness, determination and devotion.
For more information about the Youth Month activities, visit www.nyda.gov.za