By: Christine Petré
This Saturday South Africa marked the anniversary of the 1976 Soweto uprising. The uprising was a series of high school student-led protests against the introduction of Afrikaans as a medium of education. Of the 20 000 participating students, 176 were killed as they clashed with police forces. In the 36 years since 1976 a lot has changed in South Africa, however, as the Rainbow Nation yesterday remembered the youth’s struggle it did so with a bittersweet aftertaste. Eighteen years of democracy has left the youth still struggling to get by.
On this year’s Youth Day President Jacob Zuma was due to speak at the Kwa-Zakhele township in Port Elizabeth but cancelled due to engagements at the G-20 summit in Mexico. The Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane replaced Zuma at the event that was labelled “Together we can do more to build infrastructure and fight youth unemployment, poverty and inequality”.
The ANC Youth League has at many times called for its country’s youth to engage in the struggle for economic freedom. Despite having its political freedom, economic freedom is still restricted with a poor education system and high unemployment rate.
Education issues include poorly educated teachers, lack of discipline, security and equipment and over crowded classes. There is a large gap between schools in rich and poor areas and between rural and urban areas. Some people even consider the education system to be worse today than during the Apartheid. Today it is more accessible to everyone but with the consequence of a decreasing standard of quality. The public schools are the worst affected, resulting in an exodus from the public to the private schools. That is for the ones who can afford it, the private schools are very expensive, once again dividing the society in rich and poor. The development where white people move their children from public to private schools have been labelled ‘the white flight’.
The unemployment rate among people under the age of 30 is now exceeding 40%. Measures to combat the development include improving the skills development system with focus on technical, language and numeric skills. The Democratic Alliance Party has also suggested a youth wage subsidy. However, without result people are worried and some consider the high unemployment rate a ticking time bomb.
The youth’s enemy today comes in a different shape, in 1976 it was united in the Apartheid Regime, today it is multifaceted, with unemployment and education at its front. Today people fear that if change does not come a youth revolution could be triggered, but this time for economic freedom!