Having declared youth unemployment as a crisis, President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday appealed to young people to not give up hope for a brighter future with government’s assistance.
“Youth unemployment is a national crisis,” said the President, while also appealing to the private sector to do what it can to alleviate unemployment.
The President said this in his address at the Polokwane Cricket Club in Limpopo where the national Youth Day commemoration was being held.
In his message, the President saluted the youth involved in the 1976 Soweto uprising. He also acknowledged the resilience displayed by the youth of today.
“We salute your resilience. Many of you are too young to have experienced the injustices of apartheid, but many of you continue to live with the effects of that injustice that was perpetrated on our people. Do not lose hope, do not grow impatient - we know that the challenges that you face propel to become impatient and we are saying do not lose hope. Do not let the sun set on your ambitions, your plans and your dreams,” said the President at a packed marquee.
The President highlighted that half of those aged 15 to 24 were unemployed, frustrating many young people. He likened this frustration of being unable to find work as a “stain on the country’s conscience”.
The President said, however, that many youths, such as South Africa’s golden girl Caster Semenya, are seizing opportunities with both hands.
“The youth of today are not a lost generation. Many are seizing the future with both hands. The flame of 1976 continues to burn. We have to make the flame brighter and brighter,” said the President, who was accompanied by Deputy President David Mabuza and several other Cabinet Ministers, including Sport, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa.
Hardships faced by the youth
President Ramaphosa echoed the calls by the National Youth Development Agency’s Executive Chairperson, Sifiso Mtsweni, for the required work experience needed to secure employment, particularly among youth, should be done away with.
“We are making a call that this should be done away with,” the President said. One of the problems faced by young people includes alcohol and substance abuse.
“The hardships that the youth face are not limited to unemployment. We must be their pillar of support. The average age of a drug user is getting lower and lower,” he said.
The President also expressed concern on research done that showed that HIV and Aids prevalence among the youth, is on the uptick, a big concern for government.
Empowering the youth
Meanwhile the President -- who toured an exhibition of services available to youth ahead of his speech -- said technical subjects like science and technology are receiving priority in South Africa’s schooling system so as to give learners an edge into a technological future. More and more technical high schools are also being introduced to ensure this.
The President, who also showed off his dance moves with popular artist Holly Rey, assured the youth that government is determined to empower them.
“Our country has never had a government that is so determined, prepared and focused on empowering young people. Government is so willing to listen to young people. I want you to remember that government has spent a considerable amount of time listening to the views of young people and we continue to listen to their aspirations and concerns. We are aware of the challenges that they have,” said the President.
Speaking to SAnews earlier on Sunday, Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, urged successful youth to take other young people with them to the top as she reflected on the youth of 1976.
“Lift as you rise… Today’s youth don’t have to go through what we went through. They have to remember that government, as an enabler, is very keen to work with them and be job creators. We want to take young people off the streets,” she said.
This year’s Youth Day commemoration took place as the NYDA this year commemorated its 10th year since its establishment in 2009.
This year’s Youth Month coincides with the commemoration of 25 years of Freedom and Democracy and it takes place under the theme “25 Years of Democracy: A Celebration of Youth Activism”.