By Deputy Minister in the Presidency Buti Manamela
Being a young person in 2015 in South Africa is very different than in 1976. Our youth enjoy human rights, have access to quality free schooling, are free to move around without restriction and can study at any higher institution of their choice.
These freedoms are the result of the courage of the Class of 1976 and countless others who stood up against apartheid regime and its substandard Bantu education.
In June every year South Africans celebrate these achievements to remind our youth that they are not too young to make an impact and that they have a role to play in moving the country forward.
During June this year we will also mark the 60th anniversary of the Freedom Charter. This important historic document boldly proclaimed: “The Doors of Learning and Culture shall be opened!”
Since democracy government has worked hard to realise the ideals of the Freedom Charter. As part of this, government has prioritised education to ensure universal access and we now see more and more learners successfully completing their schooling.
Despite advances made over the past 21 years, our youth continues to fight unemployment, inequality and poverty. For this reason the National Youth Policy 2015-2020 was drafted in consultation with young South Africans.
The policy focusses on areas such as youth development; economic participation and transformation; education, skills development and second chances; health including reproductive health care and anti-substance abuse; and lastly nation building.
The National Youth Policy will be implemented through the National Youth Development Strategy. It will also be incorporated in all government programmes.
Through the previous youth policy including the National Youth Policy 2009 – 2014, a number of initiatives are in place. One such initiative is the National Students Financial Aid Scheme which assists young South Africans to further their studies. Through this scheme government awarded bursaries to the tune of R8 billion in 2013.
To respond to our youth’s need for skills development, we have introduced the National Youth Service programme where young people volunteer in their communities and by doing so get much needed work experience.
Government is also supporting young entrepreneurs by earmarking 30 per cent of government procurement spend towards youth owned enterprises through acquisition of goods and services.
These initiatives are just some of the achievements in youth development. However, government initiatives alone cannot advance our youth. We need the private sector to take hands with us to truly have an impact.
It is for this reason that the Youth Employment Accord was signed in April 2013 between government, organised labour, organised business and community and youth groups.
We also call on young South Africans to study the National Youth Policy 2020 and explore youth initiatives so that they can identify opportunities for their own development.
It is incumbent on our youth to rise to the occasion and embrace the opportunities that are specifically created for them.