By – SAnews.gov.za
Pretoria – While youth unemployment remains a challenge that faces South Africa and many parts of the world, young people are encouraged to consider volunteering their time to acquire more skills and help reshape the country.
The South African and Flemish governments on Tuesday held the first Youth Volunteer Network Conference in Pretoria, which forms part of a 20-year celebration of joint cooperation between the two governments. The partnership was established in 1996.
The conference was held under the theme, ‘Increasing Youth Volunteering in Civil Society Organisations’.
Addressing delegates at the conference, Deputy Minister in the Presidency, Buti Manamela, said South Africa’s partnership with the Flemish government has been deep and anchored in the area of youth policy. Government has identified youth volunteering within the context of national youth service as a key platform to drive social cohesion and the nation building agenda.
“Over the years, we have jointly explored youth recreation development, local youth policy, youth and the arts and youth volunteering.
“All the themes incorporated civil society involvement, participation by research organisations, the development of youth workers and joint funding from the Flemish and South African governments,” said the Deputy Minister.
He also commended the contribution made by the civil society organisations to the development of youth.
“Civil society has shaped the content of the cooperation and has often anchored collaboration. The cooperation over the last two decades would not have been successful without the involvement of civil society. Their participation has ensured that the cooperation is vibrant and remains relevant to youth development challenges,” he said.
The two governments agreed on a new framework for the 2015 – 2020 cooperation. The framework is based on upscaling and promoting youth volunteering in civil society organisations.
Building blocks to upscale youth volunteering
The Deputy Minister said the cooperation will be based on four building blocks that will upscale and promote youth volunteering. These include capacity building, knowledge generation, marketing and communication, and lobbying and advocacy.
According to Deputy Minister Manamela, capacity building focuses on strengthening the capacity of civil society organisations and volunteers in order to increase the quality of the youth volunteer experience and the quantity of young volunteers.
The main activities involve the operationalization of the recommendations of the project evaluation, mentorship and the development of a manual for volunteers.
“We are concerned about the resource allocation to civil society organisations for the funding of youth service programmes. The framework recognises this impediment.
“Within the tight fiscal environment that we find ourselves in, we will make a principled, evidence based argument for more public and private resources to support youth service programmes,” said the Deputy Minister.
Revised NYS Programme Framework
The Deputy Minister said the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation will in the next month or two submit the revised National Youth Service (NYS) Programme Framework to the relevant Cabinet Committee and to Cabinet for approval.
Following the approval of the framework, he said, the NYDA will roll out an exciting communications programme for a repositioned National Youth Service Programme for the youth of South Africa.
He said the National Youth Service Unit will be ready to support government and civil society with training and technical support in the development and implementation of youth service programmes.
Volunteerism a platform to access skills development
Representing the Flemish government, Minister for Culture, Youth and Media Affairs, Sven Gatz, said he was a volunteer from the age of 16 until he was in his late 20s.
Gatz said he had learnt that there is an automatic educational surplus to volunteering, in that volunteers are involved in various projects and activities in which they have to learn.
Chairperson of the Board of the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), Sifiso Mtshweni, said South African youth should be at the centre of everything that government and civil society do.
He said about 66% of the South African population is youth, which means that the inheritors of the nation’s wealth is the youth.
Mtshweni said South African youth, like some in other countries, faces the challenge of unemployment, poverty and lack of access to quality education.
He said government has put youth at the centre of its developmental agenda through the National Development Plan of 2030.
“The youth represents a powerful resource for our country, provided effective youth focused programmes are implemented so that the youth can become active members of society,” said Mtshweni.
He said in the absence of employment, volunteerism provides a platform to access skills development.