Opinion Piece: Issues Facing the Youth in 2015
Clarion Call for Change, for a Future!
Every generation must discover its mission, fulfil it or betray it” – Franz Fanon.
Youth Day 2015 is unique in that it marks 39 years since the 1976 uprising, 60 years of the Freedom Charter and 21 years of democracy in our nation. Though one opinion may seem negligible, but together we are millions of young voices for a difference, for a change and for a future. The youth may make up 60% of the population but we make up 100% of the future. Our duty as young people is not to foresee the future, but to enable it today. Youth Month will see many embark on youth outreach programmes across the country, one ought to remember that activity does not mean achievement. How much activity will it take to create a new revolution of young people who are able to reflect and boldly engage in the needs and struggles of our time?
Youth day is a day in our country set aside to recognise the role of youth in the liberation of South Africa from the apartheid regime. What is the role of our Youth today? The youth is faced with a cocktail of challenges, perhaps it would not be fair to compare the youth of 1976 and the youth of today, ours is to discover our mission and fulfil it. The challenges that we face today as young people start in our very homes; there is a growing number single parent household, when the parent is trying to make ends meet, the child is deprived of a parent’s guidance. This has led to young people having a higher dropout rate, engaging in fatal and risky behaviours. It truly requires a community to raise a child. We are also facing a substantial increase in drug/alcohol abuse, violence in schools and the problem of growing too fast. I am in the healthcare industry, and health plays a major role whether young or old, rich or poor. Your health is your wealth. Lifestyle issues are contributing a heavy burden on our youth and the 800 pound gorilla in the room that no one wants to talk about: The increase in life expectancy will not only contribute to the GDP but will also create a problem were one will question if age is an asset or a liability? Will the government be able to support so many people? The United States admitted by 2033 that social security funds will go bankrupt. Young people will have issues of housing, we can already see 3 or 4 generations living under one roof – multigenerational survival will have impact on medical care.
Lastly, the shifting economy – unemployment is a major problem, the statistics tell a sad and sobering story. When we look at the global market we tend to underestimate how much impact it can have locally - it has an impact on our stock exchanges, petrol prices, cost of goods etc what exactly does this mean to a young person? A young person today cannot graduate or even dropout of school without having to go through the ills of a low-income job. In fact youth today will graduate with multiple degrees and still cannot find work that pays enough to sustain a decent lifestyle. Back in the days, after matriculating, you could go work in local factory or store and sustain yourself for the rest of your life. However are we here to survive or thrive? Poverty and educational disparities are crippling to young people. However not all is doom and gloom, we as young people ought to not let our circumstances dictate our future. If you are born poor it’s not your fault, but if you die poor it is your fault. Were these issues never expected?
Society needs to be more inclusive of youth by prioritising them as key role players in important decision making process that impact on our future. The youth were forgotten in the drafting of the millennium development goals (MDGs) adopted in 2000 and to be reflected upon later this year. I remember the words of South African Defense Minister Nqakula, 'the best way to honour the youth who died in 1976 is to solve problems facing the current youth in South Africa, which prevents them from realising their potential to be productive and fulfilled citizens'. Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Parents do not just protect your child from the future but prepare them. 'A nation’s history may be written in books, but a nation’s future is written on chalkboards of its schools. What happens in the classroom today determines what will happen in our country tomorrow' – Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa. The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating, the paths to it are not found but made. The only way we will be able to successfully tackle these issues is by having young minds take their rightful place as world shifters. We as young people must invest in all aspects of society – politically, socially and economically. We need to become active citizens. There is a reality that government and business will not be able to absorb all of the young people coming out of high schools and universities. Therefore we need to encourage a stronger culture of entrepreneurship. Instead of thinking about where to become employed, young people need to focus on how to start their own business and become employers.
We need youth that will be socially accountable in all spheres, with the ability to reflect on its existence in the nation, in the continent and in the world. The first Presidential Youth Working Group meeting on June 16 aimed at bringing together government and the youth to actively play a part in shaping policy and governance at the highest level. This is the kind of solutions we need to see. Our education system needs to be refined to suit the needs of our community, it is saddening that most of the textbooks we use are not our own, to make it worse, the textbooks we use are not even recommended in their native countries. It is indeed in our hands as young people to uplift and promote, resize and reshape, to aspire to inspire before we expire because where there is no vision people perish. It goes without a doubt that education and employment are essential for us to live fulfilled lives. We need to change how we think and take action. Action changes things (ACT). Let us not wait to be assisted. When the student is ready, the teacher appears. Persistence is the mother of personal change, create goals, goals energise your life. A person is limited only by his/her imagination. Our ability to stay united has been tried and tested in our young democracy. Young people have described our nation as having a lot of potential, diverse, energetic, full of hope and unique, as well as corrupt, confused and hopeless, all at the same time.
To every young person out there, I have learnt that learning does not take place in the formal environment only. Everyone is born a genius but the processes of life degeniuses them. I have become a student of life. We need to overcome the issues of class, gender and race to achieve our goal and this can only be done by recognising our collective responsibility, we have been tasked to “take our country forward”
Bonginkosi Mafuze is a 5th year medical student at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine UKZN. He is co-founder of Yunibo Health, a thriving non-profit organisation assisting the community. He was recently awarded UKZN Top 40 inspiring student in 2014. He is an executive member of the South African Medical Students Asssociation and a former Student Representive Council (MSRC). He is also recognised internationally as a Fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society. He is an undergraduate research placement at the leading HIV and AIDS and TB institute, CAPRISA. He is authoring a book titled, “The University of Life”.