Youth at heart of South Africa’s policies


2 June 2015

South Africa has made enormous strides in youth development over the past two decades, according to Jeff Radebe, the minister in The Presidency for performance monitoring and evaluation.

“That is why over the past 20 years of freedom and democracy in South Africa we gave education the highest budget allocation, more than any other departmental budget vote,” he said.

Speaking at the Youth Month launch at the Hector Pieterson Memorial in Soweto yesterday, Radebe said that in 1994 only 150 000 African students were enrolled in higher education; by 2012 over 750 000 African students were enrolled and the increases were reflected across the black majority.

“Government bursaries for higher education have been increased from R21-million in 1994 to R8-billion in 2013, offered through the National Students Financial Aid Scheme [NSFAS].”

Economic transformation

Radebe called on the youth to help bring about radical economic transformation by taking a step to participate in personal economic development. “The youth must be found in farming, in ICT, in the financial institutions, in the media, in engineering, in sports, in cultural activities and all other activities that constitute the economy of our country.”

The cabinet had approved the National Youth Policy 2020, which sought to address the youth development agenda, economic participation and transformation. It also addressed education, skills development, health care and substance abuse, and nation building.

By the end of 2014, the government had spent over R730-million to support over 15 000 youth enterprises. “I am confident that the establishment of the Small Business Development Department will further consolidate expansion of youth entrepreneurship,” Radebe said.

Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said the provincial government was repositioning the economy of Gauteng so that young people were the new gold. “The new gold is the young ones that are here: they are the ones who are going to create jobs; they are the ones that are going to be innovative; they are the ones who will be business people; and they are the ones that are going to present the skills we need.

“We don’t want these young ones to apply for social grants. We want the social grants for these young ones to be their mental capability so that they can have their own social grants from their own pockets and not from the government.”

Bursaries for students

The Gauteng cabinet had made several decisions, he said: that the top three matriculants in each school would receive a bursary to study at a higher education institution for four years; that every pupil in Grade 11 would be required to get a driving licence as a skill; and that from 2016, students who dropped out of university because of financial difficulties or because they were pregnant would get bursaries to further their education at an institution for higher education as part of the Second Chance programme.

This year marks 39 years since the 16 June 1976 uprisings, commemorated each year in June which has been designated Youth Month. Youth Day, an annual public holiday is on 16 June. This year, the theme is “Youth moving South Africa forward”.

Also speaking at the launch, the executive chairman of the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) said the fund had spent R29-million on micro and small youth-owned enterprises through its Business Grant Programme, in 2014.

The programme helped more than 1 000 small businesses, Yershen Pillay said. “The NYDA further provided non-financial business development support to 62 990 young aspiring and established entrepreneurs. We are indeed making significant strides in promoting youth entrepreneurship.”

To date, the agency’s Solomon Mahlangu Scholarship Fund had provided 586 young people with scholarships to the value of R40-million. It was launched in March 2014.

“Today we can speak of an NYDA that has proudly supported 938 044 young South Africans with career guidance interventions and 1 253 049 young people with valuable information to access the plethora of opportunities provided to youth by the government,” Pillay said.