South Africa looks forward on Youth Day
18 June 2012
Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane urged South Africans to work with the government in tackling youth unemployment as the country marked the 36th anniversary of the June 16 1976 student uprising on Saturday.
Thousands of youngsters joined government officials and politicians in Port Elizabeth's Wolfson Stadium on Saturday to commemorate the day, 36 years ago, that ushered in a new era of struggle against the apartheid as thousands of black students left their classes to protest the imposition of Afrikaans in black schools.
Hector Pieterson, a 13-year-old boy, was the first to die in the protest, and his death sent shock waves throughout the world and brought attention to the injustice of the South African apartheid regime.
Unemployment the burning issue
With South Africa grappling with the challenges of unemployment and poverty, it was not surprising to see most of the speeches at Saturday's occasion focusing on efforts by both the government and the private sector to tackle youth unemployment.
Speaking to a crowd of about 5 000 people, Chabane acknowledged that while the government had probably made strides in addressing the challenges facing the youth, more young people still needed to access economic opportunities.
"Young people need improved access to quality education and skills in order to meaningfully participate in the economy," Chabane said.
He said the government was doing its part to address the plight of young people, but it was still up to "everyone in society to address the plight of young people".
He said the different government departments were working together to absorb young people, who were presented with opportunities either through jobs or skills development.
Jobs, skills development
More than 9 000 young people had undergone skills development training at state-owned enterprises, over 8 000 have been trained through the National Rural Youth Service Corps, while an additional R190-million has been secured for the National Skills Development Fund, which is expected help increase the enrolment of students at FET colleges this year.
The Department of Defence and Military Veterans will, through its military skills development programme, recruit over 6 500 young people this year, with the figure expected to double in the next two years, Chabane added.
"Through the national youth service programme, 20 000 unemployed youth will be recruited and turned into disciplined and empowered young people." The programme is due to begin next year.
Chabane said the National Student Financial Aid Scheme continued to provide higher education opportunities to disadvantaged youth. The fund had grown over the years to provide more than R6-billion in loans and bursaries to needy students in 2011.
"Through the prioritisation of infrastructure development, the government has already assisted in job creation, as it has become one of the biggest employers in the country," Chabane added.
He called on all those debating the mooted youth wage subsidy to remember that "the challenge of youth unemployment is a real issue that requires real leadership".
The Treasury has proposed the multi-billion youth wage subsidy as one of the temporary solutions to the issue of youth unemployment.
"We call on all involved in the discussions to discuss the matter in a responsible manner and finalise the discussions so that the process should be taken forward," Chabane said.