Perspective on Youth Development

Wednesday, 8 August, 2007 - 23:00

South Africa has made efforts in creating an enabling environment for young people, by establishing policies, institutions and programmes that are aimed at developing the youth of South Africa.

South Africa has made efforts in creating an enabling environment for young people, by establishing policies, institutions and programmes that are aimed at developing the youth of South Africa.

The government promulgated the National Youth Commission Act, which resulted in the establishment of the National Youth Commission. The commission has a mandate to coordinate and develop an integrated youth policy.

The Umsobomvu Youth Fund (UYF) was created to support programmes that are aimed at ensuring that young people are either employed or employable. The National Youth Service Programme was designed to encourage young people to be patriotic and contribute to nation building, while they acquire skills that will assist them to become employable. 

The list of programmes aimed at youth development is endless. 
 
However, the challenges and needs of young people seem to aggravate despite the existence of these interventions. The critical challenges remain: unemployment, HIV/AIDS and lack of skills. It seems we have good policies, but we lack the capacity to implement them.

In the same token, the Sectors for Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) were created some years ago to address issues of skills development, but the youth is still confronted by the skills defiance factor, while SETAs under-spend their budgets. Constantly, various research findings speak of young people boosting 70% of the total unemployment population.
 
We have to applaud certain government departments that have created youth directorates in order to streamline youth development. Other departments have developed youth development frameworks. Many municipalities have created youth desks and have appointed youth officers, who are responsible for implementing youth programmes.

However, many government departments deploy people into these positions who have very little knowledge of youth development. Often they put people who are in excess and are not featuring in the plans of the department. Obviously, for such people, it will be difficult to articulate and implement youth development frameworks. 

At a municipal level youth officers operate with, for argument's sake, an annual budget of R1 million. This allocation is often exhausted by youth summits or conferences and transport to youth day celebration venues. Increasingly, youth development seems to be regarded as an event rather than a process.

If a young person approaches the Local Economic Development (LED) Network to seek assistance for entrepreneurship activities, he/she is referred to the youth desk, which in essence does not have capacity to deal with the influx of young people. The same thing applies when young people seek funding from financers - they are referred to UYF. Unfortunately, institutions such as UYF are not panaceas because they also have their own constraints.

Various sectors of the society should use International Youth Day to deepen their understanding of the current youth development epoch. Youth development cannot be viewed in isolation from other developments in the country. Young people are not a homogenous group, they have a variety of needs and, as result, there should be a variety of programmatic interventions set out to meet these needs.

We cannot use a "one-size fits all approach" when dealing with youth development matters. It must form an integral part of community development. 

Young people of today must be as radical as young people of the 70s by ensuring that they play a critical role in the development of the country. Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (AsgiSA) and Joint Initiative on Priority Skills Acquisition (JIPSA) will not achieve their goals if young people are not central in the entire process. The youth sector needs to acknowledge that it has a role to play in JIPSA processes.

The process to prepare young people to seize opportunities that will be presented by the 2010 FIFA World Cup must begin post-haste. Likewise, Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) legislation must reflect on youth quotas, which will help us to monitor how many young people benefit from the BEE transactions.

While we celebrate International Youth Day, we should also acknowledge the role that civil society organisations are playing in the development of young people and further urge the government and private sector to support their programmes.

We must also change our mindset about youth development, because currently youth development seems to be an issue for black people. Our young white and Indian folks are also confronted by similar challenges and therefore they should be brought on board. 

There must be synergies between youth development machineries and civil society organisations to ensure that integrated youth development is implemented in order to attain sustainable youth livelihoods.

Let us all play a part in deepening youth participation in development through service. Let every month be a youth month. As we celebrate this day we must bear in mind that young people have talents, skills and energy to take the lead in activities that are aimed at their own development.

Ultimately, we must strive for integrated youth development, which will ensure that young people do not play a mediocre role in the development of the country.

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