By Sherole Webster and Irene Basson
June 16 marks a special day on the South African calendar – it’s a day that honours youth who fought for a fair education system during apartheid, as well as the role of youth in the liberation of South Africa.
But what does Youth Day mean for us today? Yes, the youth need to liberate themselves but is that what they are working towards with great earnest? Can we as the parents of the post June 16 1976 youth truly stand by the lessons learned and choices that our children make? Can we honestly say that the youth of South Africa is living up to the legacy left behind by those who sacrificed their lives? More often than not, the answers to these questions would be no. Our youth, though suffering a different struggle, can often be seen to not fully acknowledge or appreciate the opportunities that many gave up their lives for in the hopes of getting a small glimpse of what we enjoy so freely today. The latest trends are reflective of exactly this; look at the trend of ‘Skhotanes’ as a prime example. Youth who display gluttonous behaviour from the spoils of their parents’ who then become slaves to the whims of their sons and daughters who have taken up this lifestyle. Exhibiting behaviour that can easily be said not to be what the youth of 1976 had in mind when they set out on the streets of Orlando West on that fateful day. Wasting money that they often do not have to prove a point to one another at events; all of this in a bid to show superiority over their rivals. This conduct does not fit into the South African dream that the Hector Peterson’s and Mbuyisa Makhubo’s had in mind.
Amongst the many challenges that the youth face in a post-Apartheid society is the legacy that that era left behind in the education system. It is always said that the path to a brighter future for a nation lies in the education of its youth. This statement could not ring more true for South Africa. It is a cause for concern that many of our youth cannot afford the very basic education that we position as being of the utmost importance to their progression. This challenge is not only a problem for the government to resolve but one that every individual can play a role in. As an individual who has received an adequate education to better your social position, one can give of their time and knowledge to help those around you. Our youth need to take their futures into their own hands; it is vital that when presented with opportunities to better their social standing and education, they grasp them with both hands and use them wisely.
Education does not merely end with what is learned in textbooks but is about being informed and taking action. Living in an age and on a continent that is ravaged by the HIV pandemic, it is important that we teach our youth to be cognisant of the world they live in and the dangers that lie all around them. Without seeming to “preach” to the youth it is important that through being living examples, we teach them the power they have to address the issue of this pandemic and make real changes by simply taking care of themselves, those around them and engaging in safe practises.
Young South Africans remain a central part of the country’s success. For this country to grow and develop, the youth need to be empowered. We need to keep the knowledge of our history conscious in our youth, to encourage them to be daring and face their challenges and succeed. In order to do so, we need to play a more active role in being the right type of role models for our youth; people that they are proud to look up to and emulate. People who do not accept or encourage behaviour that derails the journey of our country to prosperity.
This youth day we should all endeavor not only to remember the past, but to celebrate the present and create hope for the future.