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Reflecting on Youth Month

Mahlatse Tolamo

Mahlatse Tolamo | July 7, 2021

June 16 Commemoration

Last month, we celebrated the 45th anniversary of June 16 Soweto Uprising which changed the socio-political landscape in South Africa, and we also celebrated International Day of the African child, initiated by the African Union which honours those who participated in the Soweto Uprising. This day focuses on the barriers African children face to receive decent education and is also an opportunity to raise awareness for the ongoing need to improve the education of children across Africa.

After so many years of African students fighting to get a decent education, one would expect that the education system would improve and unfortunately, that is not the case. We are facing an issue of elitism in Education and most of the population lack access to adequate learning opportunities and a poor education system. In turn, this affects the employability of people and possibility to explore entrepreneurship. According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, almost 60% of the Sub-Saharan youth between the ages of 15 and 17 are not in school and South Africa’s youth unemployment is currently at 74,7%. This is alarming considering how there are more ‘opportunities’ yet not everyone gets to access them. We commemorate the youth of 1976’s struggle with no fail, yet there is no significant change in the youth’s lives.



Despite all these disheartening statistics, we are seeing a rise of young people who are making a difference and are creating opportunities for the youth. The renowned philosopher and revolutionary Frantz Fanon said: “Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfil it or betray it”. The Youth of 1976 changed the socio-political landscape of our country, and I can confidently say that South Africa’s youth has discovered its mission and is slowly fulfilling it. We have organisations like Geekulcha and Girl Code ZA, which are both bridging the digital skills gap and Tshimong and 123 tutors who are transforming the country’s educational methods.



Anzisha Prize, Africa’s premier entrepreneurship initiative released a report titled ‘Unlocking Africa’s Job Creators’. It highlights that entrepreneurship, supported by a policy framework designed to respond to challenges including cultural aversion, weak education systems, and bureaucracy, can help the continent’s youth create over a million jobs by 2030. Young people can start businesses from just about anywhere on the continent and their inexperience is perhaps their greatest asset because they are less likely to be discouraged from trying new solutions for the fear that it will not work.



This year’s youth month was more of reflecting on the challenges, opportunities and successes that occurred in the past 45 years since the uprising. Investing into our youth is a direct and sustainable investment into the country’s future therefore, it is up to entrepreneurial ecosystem role players to ensure that there is a conducive field for them to thrive in order to combat these challenges. This can be done by: Creating Enabling Entrepreneurship Policies will help drive entrepreneurship, Integrating the relevant education with entrepreneurship to facilitate entrepreneurship skills development and lastly, leveraging strengthening existing stakeholders.



We resonate with the words of former president Nelson Mandela in his Youth Day speech in 1994: “Let us all rise to the challenge of the freedom that we have won. That challenge is to create a better life for all South Africans: to create jobs, to provide free quality education and open opportunities for skills training, to build houses, to provide health facilities and other basic services. Let us together answer the question, ’so where to now?’ with a new youthful determination to learn, to build and to live life to the full. The country thirsts for your talents and energy.”


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