Premier Zille and Minister Fritz Launch Provincial Youth Development Strategy
Joint statement by Helen Zille, Premier of the Western Cape and Albert Fritz, Minister of Social Development
It is my pleasure today (Tuesday, 8 April 2014) to officially launch the Western Cape Youth Development Strategy, which outlines the whole-of-society approach needed to equip the young people of the Western Cape with the skills and tools they can use to improve their lives and become productive, responsible members of society.
We want all young people to have the best chance possible to be healthy, educated citizens who contribute to society through leading lives they value and leading lives which add value.
Through the right combination of opportunities, services and support, we believe that our youth can access the means to improve their lives and achieve their ambitions, regardless of their background and life circumstances. This depends on a combination of opportunity, freedom, support and personal commitment. Everyone in society has a role in achieving this vision, which we call the “open, opportunity society for all”.
We know that youth development is a complex undertaking and many young people in the Western Cape face challenging environments and home circumstances that undermine their potential to become successful and independent adults. That is why we have to confront this challenge and build a partnership with the “whole of society” to meet it. It can and must be done.
We also know that the most effective time to influence the outlook, values and identity of young people is between the ages of 10 and 25. That is the stage of life on which our Youth Development Strategy focuses, divided into two phases: the "pre-youth" phase between the ages of 10 and 14, and the "youth" phase between 15 and 24 years old.
Of course, this is reliant on a functional early childhood development (ECD) system to build foundations of basic cognitive and social skills on which this strategy can build further. It also requires everyone to play their role: parents and families, clinics and schools, businesses and NGOs, government and social institutions and, most importantly, young people themselves who use the opportunities that are provided to them.
The Challenges of Our Context
The environment that young people grow up in is crucial in influencing the outcomes of their lives: from the basic unit of the family to the immediate community and then wider society. It is in this environment that young people shape their identities, select role models and build their value system which guides their choices and actions.
Unfortunately many of our youth lack equitable access to the services, support and opportunities that can facilitate their development in a positive manner. They are deprived of the chance to develop their capabilities, as described by Indian economist Amartya Sen, to cope with internal and external stresses and to meet their material and emotional needs. As a result, they may turn to risky and unhealthy coping strategies to meet these needs such as substance abuse, crime and involvement in gangs.
Although not unique to the Western Cape, the youth of our province face many barriers and negative influences in their immediate environments that make it difficult to climb the ladder of personal development:
- Almost 60% of Western Cape learners grow up with “absent fathers”. They are either raised by a single mother (32%); another family member (24%) or a non-family member (4%).
- More than 25% of young people live in households where the caregiver has been in jail.
- Almost 15% of young people live in households where someone is a gang member.
- Almost 25% of young people live in households where someone uses drugs.
These home factors lead to risky and irresponsible behaviour among young people which can harm their chances for success later in life. Research by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime among school-going youth has found that:
- 27.6% of youth at school are regular smokers.
- 22.4% of youth at school consume alcohol on a daily basis.
- 10% of youth at school are regular cannabis users and 2.5% are hard drug users.
Under these circumstances, it is not difficult to see why many of our youth struggle to make the transition into stable, self-sufficient adulthood where they can contribute to the well-being of society. The problem is more alarming than simply our crisis of youth unemployment which stands at more than 50%. It is characterised by the growing number of NEETs: young people who are not in employment, education or training. 32% of youth in the Western Cape are NEETs and they represent a deeply concerning picture of economic and social exclusion, stunted personal agency, and the absence of an enabling environment that provides meaningful opportunities for them to thrive.
In order to address these challenges, the Youth Development Strategy identifies five pillars that define a strategic framework to outline a number of "calls-to-action" that all stakeholders and spheres of government must commit to and implement. If all role-players fulfil their responsibilities as part of a whole-of-society approach, we can reshape the environments that young people find themselves and provide the opportunities they need to build their capabilities and expand their life choices.
Pillar 1: Family Foundations
The intended outcome of interventions under this first pillar is to have a critical mass of parents who approach parenthood with the required commitment, effective parenting skills and support networks to support positive youth development. Families play a critical role in shaping a young person’s life and no government can substitute for the role of responsible, caring parents, who are a young person’s primary role models.
Available evidence suggests that interventions to support young and vulnerable parents and caregivers can produce positive results. Programmes that provide parents and caregivers with information about child development and teach communication and non-violent problem-solving skills can help families build resilience to cope with pressures and strengthen their capacity to care for and support children and youth in their development.
Where a family is dysfunctional, “ambassador” or mentorship programmes that pair a young person with an adult who can serve as a positive role model can facilitate exposure to positive standards of behaviour and reinforce an aspirational outlook that can be a driving force for better relationships, improved self-esteem and increased confidence. Such programmes can also be linked to parent training programmes, focused on young men and health literacy programmes to promote paternal responsibility and increased family wellness.
We group all of these interventions under an umbrella term: the Future Potential Families Support programme, to be implemented through partnerships between the Social Development, Health and Education departments, NGOs, faith organisations and local governments.
Pillar 2: Education and Training
The intended outcome of interventions under this second pillar is to ensure that youth are literate, numerate and prepared for life and work. The skills of literacy, numeracy and informed decision-making are crucial for young people to become productive adults. This requires a well-resourced schooling system that provides a quality education and enables learners to develop a sense of aspiration and possibility for their lives.
In addition, young people need a supportive environment that helps with academic performance and nurtures positive attitudes about school. Structured afterschool activities which include academic support and provide recreational opportunities for sporting and cultural activities not only promote holistic development but they also keep learners occupied during their ‘leisure’ time and off the streets, away from negative influences.
The Western Cape Government’s MOD Centre programme provides such opportunities through our 181 MOD (Mass Participation, Opportunity & Development) Centres based in schools throughout the province. It is also worth highlighting that many schools, from Masibambane High to Milnerton High, run their own “MOD programmes” without additional support from the government through the academic support, sporting and cultural afterschool activities they offer. This is possible through extra effort by parents and teachers to give of their time, energy and resources. It is an example of stakeholders in the school community taking responsibility and playing their part in the whole-of-society approach.
To enrich and expand an ecosystem that creates these opportunities, we propose the Expanding Horizons programme, a youth service programme for high-performing matriculants and graduates to provide academic support in schools and run afterschool clubs. It will be implemented through partnerships between the Department of the Premier, the private sector, universities and NGOs offering tutoring support.
Pillar 3: Economic Opportunities
The intended outcome of interventions under this third pillar is to provide opportunities for youth to have expanded work and job market prospects. The vital importance of this priority area cannot be overstated because economic inclusion is the foundation for social inclusion. When people have jobs, opportunity and ownership of property that they feel they have a stake in their communities and broader society.
To provide these economic opportunities, a two-pronged approach is proposed:
- First Jobs Internships – this will be a coordinated programme to offer at scale a range of first job/internship opportunities to first-time job-seeking young people with Matric or a secondary qualification, harnessing the potential of the Premier’s Advancement of Youth (PAY) Project, Work & Skills Programme and similar private sector programmes.
- Employment Works – this would be a large-scale, subsidised works programme for young people to participate in structured and supervised work, and learning while earning a small stipend. It is proposed that 200 000 job opportunities are created through a public-private partnership that would draw on the resources of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), Community Works Programme (CWP) and similar NGO initiatives, all within the ambit of the Western Cape Economic Development Partnership (EDP).
Pillar 4: Identity and Belonging
The intended outcome of interventions under this fourth pillar is to enable youth to identify with positive influences in their lives which promote a sense of belonging and engagement. Young people need to have opportunities to discover engaging interests, develop their talents, receive support and affirmation and take responsibility for contributing positively to community life. Through this process, they can develop their sense of identity and belonging as well as cultivate supportive adult and peer relationships.
Unfortunately, in our dysfunctional communities, youth who experience social exclusion become involved in destructive structures and rituals and find the acceptance and affirmation they need through being part of gangs. The need for positive alternatives to gangs is therefore critical in the Western Cape and our priority focus should be on those young people at risk of becoming gangsters.
A key intervention in this area is the creation of physical and virtual spaces where young people can meet to form supportive peer groups, learn productive skills, access information and services, and be exposed both to positive images and messaging and to recreational opportunities. This Youth Café where we are launching the Youth Development Strategy is an exciting example of such a space.
In partnerships between the Departments of Social Development, Economic Development and Tourism, Cultural Affairs and Sport, Education, Community Safety, NGOs and the private sector, we can make significant strides in making “alternative gangs” the peer groups of choice. As Minister Fritz announced in his budget speech last month, we will in the coming year be rolling out more Youth Cafés to Atlantis, George and Nyanga Junction.
Pillar 5: Reconnection
The intended outcome of interventions under this fifth pillar, is to facilitate the reconnection of disillusioned youth, by providing effective services and support to build inclusion, strengthen resilience and enable positive development. The Western Cape has a large number of youth who have disconnected from a positive path in life, often characterised by substance abuse, violence and anti-social behaviour. The problem is usually compounded by their NEET status.
We propose an ongoing support programme that aims to give these alienated youth a second chance in life using the Chrysalis model. Targeting at-risk youth between the ages of 17 and 25, most of them NEETS, Chrysalis implements a structured residential programme of vocational and life skills development and physical training to instil discipline, cultivate a sense of personal and social responsibility and empower the programme beneficiaries to avoid a life of crime, drugs and gangsterism. Chrysalis graduates are linked to internship opportunities to facilitate their transition to work or further education.
Through partnerships between the Departments of Community Safety, Social Development, the private sector and NGOs, we want to scale up these types of programmes to reach as many vulnerable NEETs as possible, who deserve the opportunity of intensive assistance to rescue their lives from vicious and self-destructive cycles.
The outline above is our "big picture" framework for positive youth development. It is well-researched and coherent and is firmly grounded in our whole-of-society approach. The strategy defines the key priorities for successful and broad-based youth development and identifies the key partners whose unique resources, expertise and mandates must be harnessed in a coordinated manner to achieve meaningful impact. We also recognise that we will need to monitor results closely during implementation so that we can make adjustments where the evidence suggests it is needed.
The Youth Development Strategy complements our overall strategic plan to help us achieve the long-term vision of a more prosperous province that provides opportunities for all and is an enabling place for all citizens to realise their dreams. While the Western Cape will coordinate the implementation of the strategy, it cannot achieve its intended outcomes alone. We look forward to the partnership, enthusiasm and commitment of all necessary stakeholders to help turn this vision for our youth into action that changes lives.
The full Youth Development Strategy document is attached.