Youth day, a day when we commemorate the youth of 1976 who fought against inequality and oppression caused by apartheid in South Africa.
45 years later, we are a youth with very little to celebrate.
45 years later we struggle to find jobs, yet we are an educated youth. This is made in comparison to the youth back then who were forced to learn under Bantu education – an education system created to train black children for manual labour and menial jobs that the government deemed suitable for those of their race. A system that was explicitly intended to inculcate the idea that black people were to accept being subservient to white South Africans.
However, 45 years later, here we are.
Black youth is treated unfairly in the workspaces. What is ironic about this is that we have older generations who are always too quick to remind us of how fortunate we are to be there.
So, what is it that we are celebrating this year?
According to Statistics South Africa, 74.7% of South African youth, those ages between 15 and 24, are unemployed. The unemployment rate for those between 25 and 34 sits at 51.4%.
But year after year, we are told that our government is creating new opportunities for the youth.
President Cyril Ramaphosa introduced the Presidential Youth Unemployment Intervention just as South Africa entered a national lockdown in 2020.
The intention of the initiative was to employ young people at schools at teacher assistants and general assistants. However, until today, some of these young people are still not paid while others received their payments after months of fighting.
We are a youth stressed, abused and not considered by our leaders and this is why I choose to sit out this year’s Youth Day celebrations.
When the young people of 1976 marched on that bloody day, they wanted the youth after them to have fair and equal opportunities. I am certain that they wanted a better life for us. But I often wonder if their dream has been fulfilled. The oppression of the state continues in a different way.
Being part of the youth, we live in constant fear of falling into the trap of nothingness and unemployment. For us, when it comes to the jobs we have, “it is here today and gone tomorrow”.
We have become a youth that is forced to have multiple streams of income in order to survive. In essence, we are a very tired youth, working most days of our lives, for close to nothing.
According to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), 1 in 4 university students have been diagnosed with depression. The study shows that young people are in a constant battle with life and maybe that is where the term ‘sad generation’ comes from.
Covid-19 has become one of our biggest nightmares, from losing parents and loved ones to losing our jobs which has taken us 10 steps backwards.
We are referred to as the ‘sad generation’ I do not blame whoever came up with that term because most young people are fighting for survival every day and such things cause anxiety and depression.
Not a day goes by without seeing a young person crying for help to find a job or food on Twitter.
Studies show that 2020 saw many people getting retrenched, especially young people.
According to the Youth and Covid-19 survey report – Impact on jobs, education, rights and mental well-being, the Covid-10 pandemic inflicted a heavy toll o young workers, destroying their employment and undermining their career prospects.
“Globally, one in six young people who were employed before the outbreak, stopped working altogether. Two out of five young people reported a reduction in their income while young people in low- and middle-income countries are the most exposed to reductions in working hours and a contraction in their income,” reads the study.
So I ask, yet again, what is it are you asking me to celebrate?
What I would like for you to understand why this “sad generation”” would rather go out and have drinks instead of commemorating the day this Youth Day.
We are not happy.
We are not happy with how millions of rands are looted by government officials, while remain unemployed. We are not happy that we can’t afford to get educated, yet funds are being mismanaged by the governing party.
Statistics show that there are 7.2 million unemployed people in South Africa. Of this number, 52.4% of them have no matric and 37.7% of them have matric.
From the 37.7% who have a matric certificate, 2.1% are unemployed graduates and 7.5% of them have other tertiary qualifications.
Basically, we either are unable to finish matric – mainly a result of social and economic we face at home. For some of us, even when we finish matric, we cannot afford to go to university. Worse still, for those who can afford to go to university, the chances of unemployment re still high.
This is why, every year, we Fees Must Fall protests where protesting students are shot at by the police. Some have died while in protest either via police violence, or mental illness that takes over and leads to suicide.
This is our daily reality. We have become disillusioned and no longer believe in the promises made in 1994.