Unpacking the State of South African youth

Agape Youth Movement – an organisation created and led by Activators – hosted a dialogue on Saturday, 27 June 2015, as part of the Tshwane Youth Leadership Talk programme. Youth leaders from Tshwane high schools and government officials gathered to discuss the “The State of Youth in South Africa”.  Activators Abuti Rams, President of Agape Youth Movement, and Tshepang Pule, Deputy President, also launched their new book, Beyond Inspiration, which aims to help young people to realise their full potential.

Buti Manamela, Deputy Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, delivered the keynote address.  Manamela urged young people to believe in the power they have as citizens, and as “young stars of the country”. “The challenge for our generation is to shed our shoulders of the heavy load of heroes and cult-personalities. We have to believe in the power that we have, and realise that they (heroes and government) are dependent on this power. They are feeding off it like parasites, only to use it at our expense,” he said.

Young people should not allow government to make excuses for failure, Manamela added. “People participate in elections and elect governments and pay their taxes mainly because we expect government to take certain responsibilities with the powers, laws and resources they have in their control. But the government, given the nature of our transition, may not be able to do things without the support of our people, and their application of the power that they have in their midst. If we want transformation in the spaces that we occupy, we need to take a lead.”  

City of Tshwane Municipality got a taste of what young people think, as the young leaders participating in the event gave voice to their thoughts, unpacking the “The State of Youth in South Africa.”

Tebogo Sebolai, Board Member for the City of Tshwane in the Youth Development Unit, said, “Our problem, as young people, is that we like to blame so much. Opportunities are flying everywhere but young people are not looking. There is free Wi-Fi everywhere, provided by the City of Tshwane, but what do young people choose to do?  Do they download Twitter and Facebook, or do they use the internet to look for opportunities?”

Manamela called on the youth of Tshwane to understand that leadership is about taking responsibility.  He urged them to exercise good leadership by taking responsibility, to ensure that things go right in their own lives, in their communities, in their organisations, and in South Africa. “Bad leadership is the abdication of responsibility. We outsource this responsibility to superheroes and institutions. We sit back and watch from the sidelines. It is time that we, as youth leaders, take responsibility. It is time that we truly exercise people’s power in our communities and organisations. Young people must be at the forefront of pushing for positive social change. And to do this requires youth leadership.”

In the discussion period, participants expressed frustration with a system they say is failing young people. For example, they described visiting the Municipality many times, seeking help, only to be told, every time, that no one was available. Members of the Representative Council of Learners criticized the lack of support for the talents of young people in their townships.

Thabang Bhebe, Chairperson of Agape Youth Movement, said that in order to develop a whole generation of young South Africans, we must first look at how individuals can be developed. “Do young people fail the system or are they failed by the system?” he asked the audience. “The problem with South Africa is that it is trying to take a system that has worked outside, without understanding that an African child is different,” Bhebe said.

Zukiswa Ncunyana, Strategic Executive Director of Research and Innovation for the City of Tshwane, exuneplained why it was important for her to attend.  She is the leader of the department of innovation for the city, and innovation comes from young people. “I should direct our youth on where to go to with their ideas. Young people are frustrated and they are looking at us to have all the answers – but we also don’t have the answers. There should be more platforms for young people to vent their frustrations, and for us to give them guidance. Yes government does have a role to play, but young people should also know their responsibility.”

Activators Rams and Pule, authors of Beyond Inspiration, ended the day by sharing insights from their newly published book. It covers a variety of subjects sequentially crafted to help young leaders to live significant lives and discover their purpose and vision. Rams said their book takes young people through the journey of success. “Young people always get motivated, but you find that two days later the inspiration is gone, regardless of how good it was. So, I decided that it was important to write a book to share my thoughts on how young people can cultivate the culture of success.” Rams said their book will help youth with self-leadership, “It helps young people to set goals for themselves by realising their vision and purpose.”

Pule said Beyond Inspiration is important because it takes young people through the process of finding a solution without complaining. He said that the youth of South Africa need to move from complaining to asking, ‘What is my role as a young person?’ Pule believes that “Complaining and making excuses is not helping us. We need to figure out problems and find solutions.  We need to know how to keep ourselves motivated and leading.”

Professor Rocky Ralebipi-Simela, Chief Executive Officer of the National Library of South Africa (NLSA), congratulated Rams and Pule for their hard work. She encouraged young people to write books of their own, and to seek help from the NLSA for publishing. “It is very important to write because it preserves knowledge.  When we die one day, we want the next generation to know what we did and thought,” she said.

Read more about Activator Abuti Rams in our latest newspaper, The Activator: http://issuu.com/activatechangedrivers/docs/the_activator_issuu

Calling All Young Change Makers to Shape SA’s Future and Join ACTIVATE! Youth Network for 2016! Applications for ACTIVATE! 2016 are now open. To apply, click the Apply Now button on the ACTIVATE! homepage at www.activateleadership.co.za.

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