Productive youth will take us forward

An inspirational poem on youth penned by VP Mahur goes like this:

When united is our youth

Every hurdle, every obstacle

Every path becomes smooth

When in a chorus it speaks

All ill-fated voices and will

Hide away with fearful squeaks

When it steps out in unison

Every stone paves the way

For the forthcoming perfection

When it joins hand together

Infinite sky bends over to give

Flying ceaselessly new feather

May the youth now memorise

Its real power on innovation

To evolve, create and surprise.

As we celebrate Youth Month, this poem, aptly titled “Power of Youth,” reminds us that the youth have much power at their disposal. They have the power to be achievers. Youth represent a source of limitless promise and potential for change. They have enthusiasm, desire to achieve, and above all, they have the physical energy within them.

June reminds us that events of June 16 1976, as well as those in the days, months and years that followed, injected a new life in a struggle that was started by liberation movements many decades earlier. They also produced young and brave leaders, many of whom still play leadership roles in our political dispensation today.

Time and time again, research has demonstrated that countries that invest in better education, healthcare and job training for the youth between the ages 12 and 24 could produce surging economic growth and sharply reduce poverty.

The World Bank, in a development report, has recommended the large number of young people today as an investment opportunity. This is because they are healthier and should be better educated than earlier generations.

Yet, the report noted that young people make up nearly half of the world’s unemployed.

Other surveys conducted among young people found that access to jobs, along with physical security, was the biggest concern of the youth.

The bank has warned that failure to seize the opportunity to train young people more effectively for the workplace, and to be active citizens, could lead to widespread disillusionment and social tensions.

The World Development Report identified three strategic policies that may enhance investment in young people: expanding opportunities, improving capabilities, and offering second chances to young people who have fallen behind due to difficult circumstances or poor choices.

With broadened opportunities for better education and healthcare, young people can acquire the life skills to navigate adolescence and young adulthood safely, while improved vocational training will help them compete in the workforce.

Youth political participation and involvement in social organisations is also essential for fostering young people's civic life in their own communities and is also vital for good governance.

Without opportunities for productive civic engagement, young people's frustrations may boil over into economic and social tensions, creating long-simmering disputes.

Indeed, providing information to young people and developing their decision-making skills, especially to stay healthy and appreciate continued learning, is important.

So, what should we do to build future leaders and communities of tomorrow?

I believe the role of families should be seen as a crucial factor, not only in developing younger generations, but also in establishing healthy relationships between older and younger members of society.

Youth should be integrated into society so they can lead fulfilling lives, with a special focus on dialogue and mutual understanding within families to facilitate development and growth.

Protecting youth from forces that threaten families such as violence and drugs is especially important.

The importance of enforcing a role for youth in economic development, encouraging the development of decision-making skills and facilitating participation in all aspects of society has been demonstrated by recent events throughout the world, highlighting the need for dialogue between generations.

Business is a key stakeholder in the education and development of our youth and should show a strong interest in breaking the cycle of under-achievement. That’s not just because of its need for a growing pool of skilled employees, critically important though this is, for the good of society in its entirety.

Therefore business can help with implementing policies and measures that include: ensuring young people are not priced out of the jobs market; getting more value out of the existing support available for young people such as incentivising firms to take on more apprentices than they need and identifying sectors with the potential to generate large numbers of jobs.

In a tough job market, gaining as much experience as possible is vital for employment prospects. Well-structured work experience that focuses on employability skills could help young people understand what employers expect of them.

As we celebrate Youth Month, let us dedicate ourselves to never neglecting the issues that face our youth today. If we do the next generation will face the tragic consequences.

To our future leaders, no one has a greater right to speak out than you do. And it is your special privilege as youth to rise above the narrow limits of short-term gain, to burn with the fervour of justice and strive towards long-term goals. Happy Youth Month.

Phumulo Masualle is Premier of the Eastern Cape. Follow him on EC_Premier

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