What challenges are young South Africans really facing today?

We often hear complaints about the apathy and entitlement that young South Africans supposedly suffer from. Yet the #FeesMustFall movement, which gained international attention, has been just one example of youth anger coming to a head. KWAZI DLAMINI spoke to young people about what they think are the struggles facing young people today.

Sandiso Zungu

Sandiso Zungu, 21, student, Newcastle
The struggle young people face these days is being lost; most of us don’t know where we come from and we don’t know where we are going. We have no direction. We defy guidance from our elders, we want to take our own way which is fine but we need the pearls of wisdom along the way. Even our elders have given up on us; they understand that we are a lost cause. We end up in the streets because we fail to follow the nuggets of wisdom given to us and I think that is the biggest challenge facing young people.

Thembalethu Mohlakoana

Thembalethu Mohlakoana, 17, student, Matatiele
I personally, I am struggling financially to fund my studies. I think it’s an issue that most young people are facing in this country as we can see most universities in the country have troubles with finances and students wanting funding. Nelson Mandela once said “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world” but this country clearly did not take anything from those wise words. Many young people stay at home after matric because there is no funding for them to go to varsity and it is not easy to get a job without a tertiary education so it’s a continuous cycle.

Bheki Kunene

Bheki Kunene, 27, Montclair
For me it would be crime and drug abuse. It has terrorised our youth which makes them terrorise innocent people by stealing from them. It’s a broad issue – they do drugs because most of them are unemployed, so it is a tricky one. Elders also do not understand that staying at home every day while watching other people going to work can drive you to suicide; by suicide I mean drugs and crime [which can kill you]. Some of us don’t get jobs because we decided that standard three was good enough for us, which is another issue altogether.

Nomusa Shazi

Nomusa Shazi, 24,hairdresser, Folweni
It has to be unemployment. There are so many unemployed young people out here, some of them even hold degrees but have no job. I think young people need to be empowered in terms of finances to start their own businesses, I know agencies like NYDA [National Youth Development Agency] are there but I have not seen them change anyone’s life. If they could create more job opportunities for us young people then I would be able to say young people are lazy if they are not using those opportunities. Our parents don’t understand when you dont go to work but stay at home and eat their groceries; they even change their attitude towards you if you are unemployed.

Zethu Mguni, 28, research officer at DUT, Newlands
In my personal opinion struggles that are facing the youth in this generation would be opportunities in a sense of developing themselves as individuals. I also think that most of the youth lack confidence; they lack confidence in whatever they strive for. The youth miss some opportunities because they do not have the resources to pursue those opportunities. For example, people from rural areas do not have access to the internet so it is hard for them to apply for things like jobs and scholarships. I work at the research office and people always come there; some of them do not even know how to apply. Even worse, they don’t even know that our office exists, meanwhile we offer scholarships. We need both the government and the youth to use the opportunities. Young people should not feel entitled, they must ask around for opportunities.

Voxes have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Featured image by Ashraf Hendricks