24/06/2014 – Lack of opportunity for employment biggest challenge facing youth

ACDP Parliament
Youth Day:  20 Years of Democracy: Together Advancing Youth Development & Empowerment
Speech by Cheryllyn Dudley, MP and Whip

Lack of opportunity for employment biggest challenge facing youth

Youth in South Africa consist of young women and young men, between the ages of 14 and 35 – most of them going through dramatic changes in their life circumstances and facing challenges and threats that are unique to them alone.

42 percent of the population of this country are under 35 and specialised and prioritised attention has been focused on youth development through policies, institutions and endless programmes yet the challenges and needs of young people seem to increase. Even where policy is good we lack the capacity to implement them.

Youth development for many in South Africa, takes place within the context of previously and presently adverse political and socio-economic conditions characterised by poor housing, a lack of recreational facilities, a lack of access to decent education, unemployment and poor health facilities with the additional challenges of dropping out of school, living on the streets or in foster care and group homes, tangling with the juvenile justice system, addiction to alcohol or other drugs, pregnancy and parenting.

The ‘empowerment’ referred to in today’s topic would be the process of increasing personal, inter-personal and political power to enable young women and young men or groups of young people to improve their life situation.  Not only will this require the full participation of young people in the formulation of decisions which determine the functioning and well-being of society but in the implementation and evaluation as well.

Young people are telling me that: 20 years of Democracy in South Africa enhancing youth development means very little to them – especially those who are not in major cities.

The biggest challenge they say, is the lack of opportunity for employment – and we are all painfully aware that stats reveal very high unemployment amongst all demographics in South Africa, including youth. Young people are saying that the biggest obstacle is that Government has not done enough to invest in skills development through the secondary education level – our country needs artisans like plumbers and electricians – as a developing country we need Engineers too – not enough has been done to convince and fund young people to get the education and skills needed to qualify as artisans and engineers amongst other things.  Greater investment is needed if youth are to get the chance they deserve to escape and avoid the ‘poverty trap’.

The Sectors for Education and Training Authorities (SETAs), created some years ago to address issues of skills development, have not had the impact envisioned or required and adding insult to injury SETAs continue to under-spend their budgets.

Very importantly, the agency established by the presidency to deal with youth issues, is perceived by young people, to have done very little.  The NYDA needs a serious revamp to include young people from all walks of life and different political parties if it is to become a credible body.  The NYDA does not have a good story to tell and a lack of accountability has been one of the main problems.  Government agencies must serve all citizens in the country not just a select few.   ACDP Youth continue to call for a greater emphasis on multi-party participation as they are convinced that this will bring greater accountability and ideas to the agency with the prospect of more being achieved.

It is critically important that people in positions impacting on youth development have the required expertise and knowledge of youth development.  A lack of capacity to link youth with skills and finance, even where youth desks exist, seems to be a contributing factor to the lack of success.

At a municipal level youth officers operate with substantial but inadequate annual budgets which are very quickly exhausted by youth summits or conferences and transport to youth day celebration venues – as increasingly, youth development is being regarded as an event rather than a process.  The bottom line is that democracy and youth programmes are costly and there is no way around it!

Finally, it is worth repeating that we will not achieve the necessary goals if young people are not central in the entire process.  There also needs to be synergies between youth development machineries and civil society organisations to ensure that integrated youth development is implemented in order to attain sustainable youth livelihoods and to ensure that young people do not play a mediocre role in the development of the country.

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