Youth unemployment time bomb: Cosatu

15 June 2011 - 16:26 By Sapa-AP
Image: File Picture

Youth Day should not only be used to salute the heroes and heroines of the 1976 uprising, but also to improve the lives and education opportunities of today's youth, the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) said on Wednesday.

"This youth day should be dedicated to transforming our education system, which is currently failing most working-class children, who are trapped in a system in which 70 percent of matric passes are accounted for by only 11 percent of former model C schools; 70 percent of our schools do not have libraries; 60 percent do not have laboratories; 60 percent of children are pushed out of the schooling system before they reach grade 12.

"Millions of young people are still excluded from accessing education beyond secondary school," Cosatu said in a statement on Wednesday.

Cosatu warned that the country was sitting on a "ticking time bomb of youth unemployment, poverty and mounting impatience".

"Left unresolved, these conditions, like the socio-economic conditions of the black working class in the 1970s, will propel young people to strive for change and chart their own routes out of the misery of unemployment and under-employment, poverty, disease, slum housing and the bucket system."

On June 16, 1976, school children in Soweto protested for a better education, but the police responded with teargas and live bullets, killing many children.

History books differ about how many died on that day, with numbers ranging from 23 to 200.

At that stage, black children were subjected to low quality Bantu education, with poorly equipped schools and large numbers of children in one class.

In 1976, the apartheid government introduced Afrikaans as the medium of tuition from Grade 7 (then called Standard 5), which meant that pupils were not taught in their home languages.

Tensions simmered when schools opened in January that year, culminating in the June 16 protest march to Orlando Stadium.

One of those killed by the police was the 12-year-old Hector Pieterson. A photograph of his last moments, which was distributed across the world, made him the face of the uprising.