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Unemployed youth 'greatest challenge' facing SA: President Ramaphosa's June 16 message

President Cyril Ramaphosa talking during the Youth Day celebration in Mthatha.
President Cyril Ramaphosa talking during the Youth Day celebration in Mthatha.
Image: Lulamile Feni

President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Thursday the fact that millions of young people were “not in employment, education or training” was “the greatest challenge facing our country today”.

The president was delivering his Youth Day address at Mthatha Stadium in the Eastern Cape.

He said the government’s focus would remain on “far-reaching economic reforms and creating conditions for the expansion of businesses throughout the country”.

“We are here today to honour the youth of 1976 — and the youth of all decades — whose bravery, determination and vision were vital to the achievement of our democracy.

“It is due to the struggles of young people over many years that access to primary education is universal for every single young person,” said Ramaphosa.

“Our school feeding schemes have ensured that no child is hungry at school. Today, our country produces four times the number of African graduates than we did in 1994.

“These graduates have gone on to become leading doctors, technologists, innovators and entrepreneurs.”

The president also addressed the successes of the national social security system.

“Our social security system offers a level of basic social protection to every marginalised and vulnerable citizen, especially children.”

The presidential employment stimulus, which supports public and social employment, and has created close on 880,000 job opportunities since it was established, was also one of his talking points.

“A flagship initiative of the employment stimulus is the school assistance programme, which has placed 287,000 young people in schools across the country,” Ramaphosa said.

Johannesburg mayor Mpho Phalatse places a wreath at the Hector Person memorial site in Soweto on June 16 2022. Politicians from various political parties joined youth at the memorial on Thursday.
Johannesburg mayor Mpho Phalatse places a wreath at the Hector Person memorial site in Soweto on June 16 2022. Politicians from various political parties joined youth at the memorial on Thursday.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi/Sunday Times

But the president also addressed the failings of the state.

“These achievements should not overshadow the deep-seated challenges faced by young people.

“The apartheid legacy of poverty, unemployment and inequality has, in recent times, been compounded by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the July 2021 unrest and the devastating floods in KwaZulu-Natal, North West and here in the Eastern Cape.”

The unemployed millions among the youth of the nation had the president worried.

“The fact that millions of young people are not in employment, education or training is the greatest challenge facing our country today,” he said.

Job creation remained a priority.

“We remain focused on far-reaching economic reforms and creating conditions for the expansion of businesses throughout the country.

“We are intensifying our investment drive and removing the red tape that holds back business growth and greater employment creation.”

The latest programme to be launched through the employment stimulus was the social employment fund.

“It has begun to recruit 50,000 participants in community safety, food and nutrition, digital inclusion, and sports, arts and recreation.”

Ramaphosa highlighted a new dashboard for the presidential youth employment intervention that was launched on the State of the Nation website.

“Members of the public are now able to track detailed progress with implementation and receive up-to-date information about the intervention.” 

The president was jubilant about the national pathway management network, which links young people to opportunities for earning, learning and support, and had signed up more than 2.9 million.

“Young people can join the network through an online platform SAYouth.mobi, which is data free on all mobile networks.”

He added “more than 600,000 young people” had benefited from SA Youth — being placed in earning opportunities. It had provided support to many more, including interview preparation, job search and entrepreneurship training.

DA leader John Steenhuisen greets Michael Vilankulu, whose brother Japie Vilankulu passed away during the riots that preceded the June 16 uprising in Alexandra, at the Old Alexandra Cemetery in Johannesburg.
DA leader John Steenhuisen greets Michael Vilankulu, whose brother Japie Vilankulu passed away during the riots that preceded the June 16 uprising in Alexandra, at the Old Alexandra Cemetery in Johannesburg.
Image: Alaister Russell/Sunday Times

Ramaphosa announced new measures the government was taking to “remove the barriers that young people confront when trying to enter the public service”.

“We are reducing the cost and effort of applying for positions. For example, applicants for public service positions are no longer required to submit certified copies of their educational qualifications and other relevant documents,” he said.

“This simple change will significantly reduce the cost of applying, improve turnaround times and reduce the administrative burden on departments.”

New plans in the pipeline included the launching of the future of work ambassadors programme next month.

“This programme will focus on improving and modernising the recruitment and retention of youth in the public service.”

He said the government was pursuing innovative, new ways of linking learning with earning.

“For example, the national skills fund is pioneering the pay-for-performance skills development model that will create 8,000 job opportunities for young people in digital skills.

“Today, we are proud to announce the official launch of the revitalised national youth service. Youth service can contribute to civic responsibility, a common identity, development and nation building.”

Young people who wanted to participate in the national youth service should join SAYouth.mobi and create their profiles.

According to the president the youth employment service — known as YES — was another important initiative that has reached key milestones over the last year.

“Through its partnerships with the private sector, YES has created nearly 82,000 quality work opportunities for young South Africans.

“This has injected over R4.6bn into the economy through salaries alone,” he said.

He said the department of trade, industry and competition was establishing a fund to support an enabling ecosystem for young people to engage in forms of enterprise and self-employment.

We need young people who will stand up to, and put an end to, gender-based violence and femicide
President Cyril Ramaphosa

“We will continue to provide young entrepreneurs with the capital and networks to grow their start-up businesses.

“In the past financial year, 7,500 young people have received financial enterprise support and over 30,000 young people have received other enterprise support from the national youth development agency and the department of small business development.”

The president also sent out a call to arms asking the youth of the nation to do their part in building a better future.

“We need young people who have discovered their generational mission and who are determined never to betray it. We need patriotic young people who will actively serve their country and defend the gains of our hard-won democracy.

“We need young people who will stand up to, and put an end to, gender-based violence and femicide.

“Our young people need to take the lead in building a more humane society — a society that treats people with disabilities with dignity.”

Depression and bullying were also addressed by the president.

“We are deeply concerned about the number of young people falling into depression and taking their own lives. Now more than ever, we need youth to show ubuntu and kindness towards their peers. Bullying at school or anywhere else in our society must stop.”

Crime and harassment was also on the menu.

“The harassment of young people belonging to the LGBTQI+ community has no place in our country.

“Young people must shun crime and fight against corruption,” Ramaphosa said.

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