WCG strengthens resolve to support our youth in a tough economy
As Youth Month now draws to a close, we reflect on the challenges and opportunities facing young people in South Africa.
It no secret that the plight of South Africa’s youth was dire before Covid-19, but the pandemic has further exacerbated the youth crisis plaguing many of the communities we serve. Despite the added challenges, the Western Cape Government remains resolute in our proactive efforts to explore and offer gainful opportunities to young people across the province.
Half of South Africa’s population are under the age of 25 and almost a fifth of the population is between the ages of 18 and 25. Unemployment for this age category has risen, since Covid-19, to a staggering 63.3%. Employment is most difficult for those with low levels of education. The decline in economic opportunities could lead to increased appetite for risky behaviour and criminal activities, both of which already impact this specific group. It is the cohort who are most likely to die from unnatural causes and violence according to the 2019 Burden of Disease report, and it is the cohort who have been deeply affected by increased levels of hopelessness, depression and alienation. With millions of learners deprived of optimal access to education, the number of youth not in employment, education or training is likely to rise.
The combination of the youth bulge, the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on our youth and weak employment prospects could prove to be an explosive mix. How this crisis plays out will be deeply influenced by how we as leaders and policy makers respond.
Minister Marais said, "Research tells us that there is no silver bullet to address the youth crisis. Youth need a multi-dimensional approach which addresses their need for skills development, work readiness training, access to economic networks and psycho-social support. They also need support over time as there are no quick fixes here.
The Western Cape Government is committed to creating a brighter future for our youth. We believe that every young person needs to be engaged in rebuilding community and social cohesion".
The Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport has various programmes that offer youth the opportunity to expand on their interests, as well as to acquire basic job experience and the skills they need to be able to enter the job market.
Through the experience of our work, we have learnt that youth programmes must have three key elements to succeed. The first relates to creating an opportunity for meaningful work. This is the first step towards rebuilding the dignity of young people. The second is an intentional capacity building programme targeting clear skills and competencies so youth can map their learning journey. Finally, young people need help building their economic networks and navigating the world of work.
Our Arts and Culture programme offers drama workshops, songwriting classes, dance programmes and more to encourage our young artists to hone and showcase their skills. Through our Sport programme, we offer youth support and opportunities to participate at various levels and to be acknowledged for their achievements.
Minister Marias added, "Through our various programmes, we aim to show our youth that they have the capacity to change the trajectory of their lives. Through arts, sport and literature, we want to open new avenues for them to explore – to offer them hope but also to show them the millions of possibilities that lie ahead for them. Our aim is to grow the mindset of youth and to ensure that they ask for a “hand up” rather than merely a “hand out”.
Our flagship programme, YearBeyond, launched in 2015, has grown substantially. It currently has around 1 000 youth in service across the Western Cape. This provides youth under 25 with an opportunity to service their communities by working in libraries, clinics, government offices, schools and NGOs. They work as the ‘big brothers and sisters’ of children in these spaces, build a culture of reading and help improve the service orientation of public facing offices.
This programme begins with the assumption that young people have agency and capabilities. The aim is to harness and channel these as part of engaging young people to assist their social inclusion and greater participation in society both now and in the future. Creating opportunities for meaningful service and work is the first step towards this and rebuilding the dignity of our youth.
According to a 2019 evaluation of YearBeyond programme, graduates reported they had gained a wide range of skills including workplace etiquette, punctuality, customer service, confidence, communication, stress management, leadership and public speaking. The review also found that almost half of YearBeyond Alumni remain active volunteers in their communities while 97% felt the programme had improved their CVs.
As a key priority, it is important that we invest in the support of youth in our province. YearBeyond invests in building young people’s networks and creating pathways into studies or employment. This conscious focus on progression into the next opportunity ensures that our youth do not become yet another statistic who typically churn through government programmes. What we need more than anything is to ensure that the investment by government and private sector into our youth changes the trajectory of a young person’s life in a positive way, forever.
As Youth Month now draws to an end, we hope to partner with more organisations in the private sector to collaboratively offer meaningful opportunities for our youth. We must ensure that there are opportunities for them through which they feel a part of something bigger, acknowledged and considered. We must ensure that each young person is able to access an opportunity for further study or work, regardless of their financial or family circumstances. We can help turn the tide of hopelessness and unemployment for our youth – but we can only do this is if all sectors adopt a Whole of Society Approach.
Spokesperson for the Minister of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Anroux Marais
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