Happy National Youth Day – A day to honour the past, reflect on the present and look to the future

Today marks 46 years since the 16 June 1976 Soweto Youth Uprising. In the advent of democracy, this day was declared a public holiday to honour the sacrifices and to commemorate the contributions of the youth in the fight against the apartheid regime.

It is also a day to reflect on the plethora of issues that plague the present-day youth.  From the high unemployment rate which currently stands at 34.5%  to the persistent disparities in the education system which are largely divided along racial lines.  Equally important, it is a day to examine the government’s  vision, mission and goal  in preparing the youth for the fourth industrial revolution (“4IR”) and active participation in the digital economy.

The theme for this year’s  youth month celebration is “Promoting sustainable livelihood and resilience of young people for a better tomorrow”.  This is in line with the National Youth Policy 2020 – 2030 (“Policy”) as published by the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities.

Informed by various national and international policy and legislative framework, the Policy is a cross- sectoral policy that is aimed at affecting positive youth development outcomes. It recognises that the current wave of 4IR has implications on the future of work for the youth and therefore there is a  need  to build 4IR capabilities among the youth.

The proposed policy interventions include ensuring universal access to quality early childhood development learning programmes for all and developing safe learning environments. It also includes the training of teachers in modern, technology-based teaching methods in order to promote problem solving, employability and adaptation to the 4IR.

The launch of initiatives like the Youth ICT Council (“Council”) provide a glimmer of hope.  Since its launch, the Council has inter alia,  held training programmes in partnership with investors  to equip local unemployed  graduates and township-based internet service providers with 5G skills.

While a lot remains to be seen with regards to the adoption of the Policy interventions and the future of the Council, both the Policy and the Council are step in the right direction and may result in the empowerment of the youth of South Africa to deal with the present issues  and to create a future where the youth actively participates in the global digital economy.

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