16 June 2022
The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU) today pays tribute to the Youth of 1976 as the country commemorates national Youth Day and June as the youth month in their honour.
Their gallant protest against the use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction on that fateful 16th of June forty-six years ago was a watershed moment that changed the South Africa’s social and political landscape. Their blood, sweat and tears paved the way for a free and democratic South Africa we enjoy today.
The democratic dispensation we live under today fully appreciated the importance of education as a lever for change and made it an apex priority. The doors of learning have been opened to all through, among others, declaring no-fee paying primary and secondary schools and free tertiary education through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.
Although the above are in place, the sad reality is that opening the door of learning is not a panacea to the challenges faced by today’s youth. The free and democratic dispensation we are living under is a mere illusion to the youth as they battle an unjust economic system that has left many unemployed.
According to Stats SA Quarterly Labour Force Survey, in the first quarter of 2022, the unemployment rate of young people in the ages of 15 to 34 was 65,5%. This high rate is irrespective of educational level, with graduate unemployment rate at 32,6% for the 15 to 24 age group and 22,4% for the 25 to 34 age group.
Poverty, inequality, drug abuse, violence, racism and gangsterism are some of the challenges the youth confront every day. Faced with such a bleak prospect, the youth feel dejected and neglected. They have little to celebrate. As we commemorate Youth Day, we fully acknowledge the challenges the youth face. Our message to them is not to give up but draw strength from the Youth of 76 who stood up to the might of apartheid machinery with nothing but unity of purpose.
We urge the youth not to give up on education. To echo the words of world statesman, Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon to use to change the world,” The youth should use to the fullest, the doors that have been opened for them and take their lives forward. Like the youth of 76, today’s youth should be at the forefront of ensuring that the education they receive provides them with the skills and acumen to navigate the 21st century. They should also fight to ensure they receive the kind of education that make them better citizens and promote social cohesion we so need to deal with racism, gender discrimination and intolerance in our diverse South Africa.
The youth is the future.
ISSUED BY: SADTU Secretariat
General Secretary, Mugwena Maluleke: 082 783 2968
Deputy General Secretary, Nkosana Dolopi: 082 709 5651
Media Officer, Nomusa Cembi: 082 719 5157