Youth Day, June 16, is the annual commemoration of the 1976 Soweto Uprising, where thousands of young people embarked on protests against the Bantu Education Act. The Daily Vox spoke to today’s youth, high school pupils from uMgababa, south of Durban, to find out what their biggest challenges are.
Mandisa Makhathini, 18, learner, uMgababa
I’m currently at school but I already have concerns about university. The fees are constantly going up and that means I might not make it to varsity. It’s unfortunate that there is nothing I can do about it because even if I do get good results, chances are I won’t get funding. It’s bothersome that some of us are coming from disadvantaged backgrounds and that limits us sometimes. I hope I will be able to go to varsity next year and pursue a career in media studies. I love media and wish to become a news anchor or a sport analyst. I want a career on something that will bring change in my community. We need more sport facilities that will keep young ones out of the streets.
In 2015, South Africa witnessed the FeesMustFall movement bring the country to a standstill. Students from universities across the nation embarked on protests calling for free, quality, and decolonised education. While the protests succeeded in stopping fee increases in 2016, the remaining calls from students have yet to be addressed.
Nozipho Shange, 19, learner, uMgababa
My biggest concern in school is safety. We have people breaking into our school and destroying property. Outsiders walk in and out of the school’s premises and sometimes we have people coming in and demanding our cellphones and money. I have tried raising the issue with the SGB [school governing body] but nothing has been done about it.
I feel the need for us as learners to address the issue because we do have the power to do so. That is why I want to become a police officer when I complete my studies, I need to help eradicate crime in my community. We have young people roaming the streets who should be at school and that alone is a big issue.
Skhumbuzo Shinga, 17, learner, uMgababa
As a matric student I feel that teachers need to give us all the time they have but it’s impossible. Sometimes teachers don’t attend classes and their absenteeism is weighing on us as we end up falling behind. I have raised the issue with the school’s RCL (Representative Council of Learners) president but she hasn’t really addressed the issue. It is now my responsibility to fix it. I need to alert our principal so that he can intervene, otherwise we will fail and I cannot afford that. I see myself passing matric and pursuing a career in engineering and I can only achieve that through good quality results.
Statistics suggest that teachers’ absenteeism and late coming are widespread among South African schools, leading to the failure of their learners. In 2016, IOL reported that more than 800 Kwazulu-Natal teachers were on long leave, with some allegedly drawing salaries for up to a decade without attending school.
Amanda Radebe, 16, learner, uMgababa
My school is nearby a street corner where most criminal activities take place. We have learners selling and using drugs right in the school premises and that bothers me. Learners don’t only use drugs but the same people victimise and mug others. We also have cases of bullying that go unnoticed by teachers. All this needs intervention by parents, teachers and the government. We have tried to address it as learners but our efforts went in vain. As a peer educator I have tried to find the root of the problem but I failed because I was doing it all alone. We need the whole community to intervene and speak to its youth about the dangers of drugs. We need to appreciate the opportunity to get an education, not everyone has that privilege.
South African schools are not safe from crime. The Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention revealed in its 2013 study that violence and crime in South African schools is on the rise, with one in 16 pupils experiencing physical violence.
Lwazi Luthuli, 18, learner, uMgababa
At school there are many problems. There are learners who do not value the chance they are given at education and that ends up affecting me. I want my school to stay at the top in terms of the pass mark, but that’s impossible when we lose focus as learners. I want the whole community to be proud of the school. I hope for us as youngsters of this community to bring about change, we need to finish school and go to universities and represent. That cannot happen if people continue failing and being involved in drugs at school. Parents need to speak to their children and encourage them to do good with their school work, they hold a responsibility.
The Citizen reported in 2016 that, according to the SA National Youth Risk Behaviour Survey, 11.5% of pupils had tried at least one drug, such as heroin, sugars or tik.
Voxes have been edited for brevity and clarity