South Africa Is Anti Poor Youth


South Africa is anti-poor youth. Every youth month, this country parades itself as being pro-youth, while our parliament is still old. And male. Amongst many other things, writes THENJIWE MSWANE.

Remember the youth of 76, they beckon of youth.

And what did the youth of ’76 represent? Who were the youth of ’76?

In the processes of construction, and deconstructions of history; many in our country have been led to believe the battle was linear. That it looked like one thing. One struggle. Often, of black men fighting Afrikaans.

The same way the movement of #FeesMustFall was in many ways hijacked to just be about fees. There is a theme in this country, of severe inequalities that must be fought against by young black poor youth – for the narrative to be stolen to serve political agendas often after the youth who fought for it have been faced by a severe military state force leaving septic wounds. We see it every day on our Twitter feeds, black students marching, and blocking roads.

In ’76, like in 2015-2017 we saw these movements on larger scales. South Africa is anti-youth, a certain type of youth. The youth is poor, the youth is black, the youth is often in townships, and rural areas. The thorn is more painful now, our leaders are black – many of them adorned with struggle credentials, and similar septic wounds. It is ‘under’ their governance, and government that we were given our wounds. While they are looting the state, them and our previous oppressors. It is them, who watched the TRC unfold. Them who made negotiations, and allowed amnesties. Them who take, and watch as the VAT increases, the petrol increases.

As black youth stand in corners and beg, for food, for money, annoying the privileged with their dirty soapy water at robots. They are even in their graduation gowns, handing out CV’s like fliers. Trending every week #HireAGraduate, #JobSeekersWednesday, trending alongside other ugly sides to South Africa’s post democracy #LifeEsidimeni, #EskomInquiry.

“South Africa’s unemployment rate is high for both youth and adults; however, the unemployment rate among young people aged 15 – 34 was 38,2%. Broken down further, of the 10.3-million young people aged between 15 and 24 years, 3.1-million were not in employment, education or training,” said statistician-general Risenga Maluleke speaking at the quarterly labour force results for the fourth quarter of 2017.

This is an unemployment rate of 52.2% for youths aged between 15 and 24, and 35.5% for those between 25 and 34.

And what is the cost of unemployment, and job hunting? Internet, Newspapers, printing, posting CV’s. Commuter fare for interviews. Cellphone, and internet accessibility. Many Youth having to do this with little to no income. While families await their working – we are still a country of multitudes of first in their family black graduates – an instant increase to the cost of ones black tax.

It was this, this gross violence of inequality that the youth of ’76 fought against. It was about more than just a language. The way #FeesMustFall was about more than just fees. As we approach the 2019 elections, there will be numerous researches, newspaper articles and reports investigating South African youth’s lack of participation in elections. As this should all happen, but what would happen if we listened to youth not for election purposes.

What if South Africa could listens more than it shoots. The service delivery protests will not decrease with more police presence. History in schools is a start, but not at the expense of Life Orientation – a well-structured, and taught Life Orientation is exceptionally needed. Intimate Partner Violence is a number one killer of women in South Africa, so power as it relates to gender is important. Sex and Gender education, is important in a country that still threatens the LQTBQIA+ society. We are a country with too many wounds to simply try focus on one – unless of course, our history curriculum is gendered which I highly doubt with a ’76 memory that has completely erased the role of women.

The call has been made by students, over and over the years. The call has been made for an education that is not just free to the many whose recent history makes it impossible to afford an education. The education must be quality, the education must reflect the recent past towards a liberation of those who have been the most oppressed. Our parliament needs to reflect the demographics of this country. Currently black women, who form the majority of this country form the least population group of our parliament. That, and they are underpaid in all industries. Exploited, and abused at work to return to partners who may or may not kill them. The myth is not true, that only slay queens die.

This Youth Day, as our president has asked that we send him and his government.

Government, and civil society alike to be concerned with the violence of inequality that still faces the youth today.

The state should not turn a blind eye to the structural violence faced by the youth of 2018. Key amongst these forms of violence is the lack of access to education and employment. 

Listen to the youth of 2018 and set a bold agenda and allocate adequate resources to tackle the violence of an unequal education system from early childhood development to higher education, as well as the violence of the rising unemployment rate especially amongst the youth. Perhaps, if our government would listen they would hear us say send us, the young gifted, and poor instead of them

We are here. We are underutilised, underpaid and unheard. We are here, to build the curriculums; to think through our education, our cities, the land. We are as capable of thoughts, and ideas of freedom as were the youth of ’76.

Send us. We will speak truth to power to ‘the year of unity renewal and jobs.’

President, Send us.

Featured image by Aaisha Dadi Patel.


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