After four decades, prospects for South Africa’s young people still fall short
In its slow struggle to develop, South Africa has seen many young people miss out on life opportunities, with problems that extend back to the 20th century. In the Soweto uprising of 1976, the fight against the apartheid regime saw students from local schools launch demonstrations, only to be met with brutality from police at the time. The day of the uprisings, June 16, would later become a public holiday known as “Youth Day.”
Decades later, how do young people’s lives in South Africa currently fare? People aged between 15 and 34 make up over half of the country’s population, but rising out of a stagnating social mobility system, two thirds of South Africa’s children continue to live in poverty and half of them remain unemployed. These figures stand despite the provision of education to all and nutrition grants being offered to improve the quality of life.
Some have pointed out the large generational gap that exists between today’s generation of young people and their parents who lived through extended periods of unrest. As a result, the country’s youth are often unable to impact or contribute to the country’s economic growth. In a sense, they are given the right training but very few subsequent opportunities to put those skills into practice. While the onset of apartheid has been and gone, in many ways it continues to impact the kinds of opportunities afforded to younger individuals. Some of the key factors in South African society include quality of education and parental income.
President Jacob Zuma promised in 2015 that more government departments would support programmes to encourage and stimulate youth development but there is little evidence that these efforts have led to major change. With the number of NEETs (Not Employed, in Education or Training) still at a prominent level, more will need to be done to improve life prospects across South Africa.