- Disclaimer: Nokwanda Ncwane’s views do not reflect the official position of TSA.
According to South African History Online, between 3 000 and 10 000 pupils were mobilised by the South African Students Movement’s Action Committee, which was supported by the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM), to partake in a peaceful protest march against the compulsory use of Afrikaans alongside English as a medium of instruction on 16 June 1976.
The march was meant to culminate at a rally in Orlando Stadium, but the pupils were met by heavily armed police who fired teargas and later live ammunition.
Youth absent from key strategic positions
We often hear that young people are the future of a nation. However, exactly 44 years later, South African youth is nowhere to be seen in key strategic positions in the country.
If we look at the current sixth administration, the majority age of members of parliament are 55 and above — and the same goes for political party leaders. How could it be that the National Development Plan and Agenda 2063 are being championed by people who might not even be alive when in 2063?
In my opinion, it seems as if young people are only considered important when it’s election time and do not receive the necessary grooming for them to step into leadership positions themselves.
Poverty, inequality still painful reality
The youth of 1976 fought for quality education. Black schools lacked qualified teachers, facilities and resources. While the access to education has improved since 1994, data indicates that education levels remain low.
The University of Cape Town (UCT), together with the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit conducted research on the state of the youth’s well-being in South Africa in 2018.
They found that after 26 years of democracy, the struggle for a better life, poverty and inequality remains a reality for many young people in our country.
Lockdown learning highlights gap
This became more evident when the nationwide lockdown was instated on 27 March. Marginalised and underprivileged pupils and students had to rely mostly on radio lessons to catch up while others were privy to online classes and virtual meetings.
The delay in the commencement of physical academic activities further proved the socioeconomic gap. Most schools didn’t open because they lacked basic resources, such as running water and proper sanitation.
High youth unemployment rate
South Africa is one of the countries in the world with a high youth unemployment rate, currently at 29%. The UCT-led research also found that the official unemployed rate for youth aged 15 to 24 was 52% in 2011 and increased to 64% in 2018.
There are many cases where young South Africans have been fighting for opportunities and representation in the upper deciles of the economy and key strategic positions in or country.
The youth is able, they just need opportunities.