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Does the youth have enough reason to celebrate?

Lack of access to education remains a contentious challenge for the youth. Seithati Sengoatsi, discusses the various socio-economic struggles that the youth are faced with, but is it hopeless? Can the youth of 2018 turn the tide?

15 June 2018 - 16:06 By Seithati Sengoatsi
Fees must fall at UCT. File image.
Fees must fall at UCT. File image.
Image: Ashraf Hendricks

On 16 June 1976, students across South Africa revolted against a law that made Afrikaans the language of instruction in schools across South Africa. Young black students decided that enough was enough. The apartheid regime met the student protesters with a brutality that shocked the world.

To ensure that day is never forgotten, the country celebrates this day as a public holiday, Youth Day.

Fast forward to 2018, 42 years after the Soweto uprising, let us take a moment to reflect and meditate on how far we have come. How has the country progressed since then?

Before the nation updates their profile pictures with a photo of Hector Pieterson, before we all wait for the clock to strike 8pm to tune in to Sarafina and before we all attend all the youth day festivities, let’s take a moment to ponder.

What has the hefty price paid in 1976 earned the youth in 2018? Not much, the lack of access to education has failed the youth. It costs a student between R45,260 and R48,330 to get a BCom degree, R67,950 for an MBChB at the University of Witwatersrand – that cost does not include accommodation or food while at the university.

At the University of Johannesburg (UJ) a Bcom degree can cost you between R34,000 to R51,700. With parents that earn a minimum wage of R3,500 a month how are students going to afford higher education fees? In 1976, the language of instruction was the barrier, now it is the affordability of education. To this day, education is a basic right that the youth still has to fight for.

“I had to drop out of university; my parents just could not afford it,” said Nomacala Mmahlo who dropped out of UJ as a result of high tuition fees.

Even after #feesmustfall 1.0 and #feesmustfall 2.0 the battle and the quest for free education remains an ongoing negotiation. The youth simply cannot afford a basic right. The few young people who make it to university are drowning in debt. Some students only received their financial aid from NSFAS in June. How did these students survive the previous months at university? “I only received funds from NSFAS the first of June,” said Rethabile Lebatha, a second year B.Ed student at the University of the Free State.

There are those who took to the stage to receive their degrees and diplomas. Some of these youths are not able to join the workforce, in the last five years the youth unemployment rate has averaged 51.93%. Graduates spend months and sometimes years searching for opportunities, however, many remain unsuccessful.

“I graduated Cum Laude, in a B.Tech Business Administration and I have an HR diploma, but I have been unemployed for 6 months,” graduate Nambitha Dingashe said. 

An unemployment rate as high as 51.93% has given young people little to celebrate. The education system is not designed to equip students to be entrepreneurial. No one prepares the youth with a back up plan for when they find themselves unemployed.

Those who manage to secure jobs after obtaining their qualification face the responsibility of becoming breadwinners and have to make sure they get their families out of poverty.

There are the lucky few young people that ventured into entrepreneurship and were successful. However, many have turned to entrepreneurship as a form of desperation and have failed at that and are now left with business debts because there was no guideline given to them when starting the businesses.  

“I started my business in 2016, however, it has not reached its full potential because of funding,” said Bruce Dube, Owner of King Cocoa-Coffee shop.

In 2018 youth have little to celebrate. How do we, as a nation, move forward? How do we stop being stagnant? We cannot just be waiting on the government to come up with a miracle. We are the youth. The Youth is the future. We need to stop preaching this and start practicing it. This is to ensure that come next year and the years that follow, the youth can have much to celebrate.