June 16, 2018

One of the heaviest, mountainous, saddest and darkest day, the class of 1976 had to face, rebel against with the mere intention of being permitted to be taught in their own language of choice and inhumanely that was not to be. The youth of 1976 got massacred for loudly and courageously being opinionated and raising their concerns without fear when fear supposedly was the only option which white-apartheid regime psychologically invented for black people to dominantly embody. But to their shock, that was not to be as a threshold of anger had been reached. It was this class of students despite staggering odds against them that should have paralyzed their minds in order to remotely be at the mercy as well as further be contained by a white-apartheid regime. They chose to fight the system even though they were groomed and brainwashed through different institutions of learning and religion among others to absolutely fear a white man and only take instructions from him. But no amount of brutality and infiltration of fear in the class of 1976 could force them to walk away from fighting for their right – scrapping and flushing away of Afrikaans as a medium instruction language of learning. Indeed, the class of 1976 ultimately attained its goals but at a price of black students’ massacre orchestrated by a white-apartheid regime.

Today I commemorate and remember those that paved and brought ancestry African rain to wash away pools of blood of innocent souls scattered across Soweto which flooded away into streams of “Blood Rivers”. Had it not been for them, nothing would have changed. They put their lives on the line, having known the risks involved. What they did on June 16th, rewrote and changed their present then, but also defined history forever for us now. This clearly indicates the power and post-effects (and everlasting legacy) of fighting for what one principally believes in.

Again, on this day (June 2018, 16th), it’s just another thunderous reflection and realization of a long journey we still as a country have to travel especially with youth unemployment having reached its highest, almost 40% according to Stats SA. How could this be? Where have we gone wrong? There are a few things that come to mind.

Education – Somehow barriers have been created that completely prevent the youth from getting employment opportunities. One of the biggest issues facing the youth in South Africa, it’s education (the quality, relevance and alignment of our education and educational system as a whole with the existing job market) – we have got a slightly huge number of drop-outs at a primary until tertiary level. Overcrowding, lack of capacity to meet the educational needs of learners from primary up until secondary school due to staff (educators) and study material shortage and socioeconomic conditions that learners are subjected to, mostly contribute and are among other contributory factors. In response, to difficulties faced, government needs to employ more educators and educational psychologist and social workers – to be of great assistance in determining some of the fundamental factors or issues that lead learners and youth to drop out and also unearth underlying reasons behind their explosive levels of violence which extremely erupt within schooling environment (premises). It is something else to teach learners without understanding what’s emotionally, psychologically and financially going on with them as all these aspects ultimately affect as well as dictate their interaction with their school work (education), teachers, fellow peers and overall shapes their personality within the schooling environment. Because mostly if learners come from broken families, they normally carry the same brokenness to a school environment and this has proven to be dangerous based on various media reports. Therefore our educational ministries need to address these issues as they all contribute to one’s overall performance. Parents, teachers and ministry of education need to form an integrated body for the betterment, molding, growth and progress of learners from a primary up until matric (and university level). There are many issues such as academic failure, poverty, death of loved ones and abuse (substance or physical) that learners have to individually deal with and in the end, this turns into a heavy burden and weight that they carry at an age not suitable for one to. In addition, not all of them are strong enough and equipped well with tools to deal with any emergence of difficulties nor have anyone to confide in. Another element to be considered – technical and art subjects’ needs to be offered and more emphasize put on them as not everyone would be good within the science and commerce streams. Education also needs to be made free at all levels (primary, secondary and tertiary). This part clearly reminds me of the FeesMustFall Movement in 2015 as they emulated similar traits to that of the class of 1976. Because it was students at the forefront not backing down with their exams on the line and imprisonment as a certainty. However, all these unfavorable conditions never deterred them, for they stood unapologetically up for – their thirst and starvation for fees to fall. Another driving factor was the fact that upon completing their education, most students specifically blacks are in massive debts and upon finding employment depending on one’s luck, their first salary is instantly used and channeled into paying of educational debts. Unbelievable, this is, for it is our government headed by black people that are certainly making sure that the youth’s prospect of success remains stagnantly indebted. Hence, the announcement made by the former president Jacob Zuma that fees are to fall during the December ANC election conference in 2017. However, the struggle of the youth has not yet been addressed, it’s continuous because there are students who are still in jail for their participation during the FeesMustFall movement. What does this mean? We are free so it is said. But how free are we? Are we even free or we have been made to think we are? In 2018, FeesMustFall students activists regrettably are still locked for having fought for what is right, free education.                                                                                           

Employment – In spite of the drop-outs experienced at the tertiary level, it’s a fact that most of the youth in South Africa certainly graduate with a college diploma or university degree – either first, second or third-degree but yet struggle to find employment. Because they do not have experience and those that have had the opportunity of interning still do not have sufficient years or enough experience neither to qualify nor be considered for the majority of jobs advertised in South Africa. This is happening both in the public and private sectors. So a solution to this problem is to scrap-out or remove experience as a requirement for one to get a job in South Africa. In so doing the youth would be given a greater chance to get employed. How in the right state of mind as a country do we expect the youth to have 2-4 years of experience to qualify for a job especially when we know our youth are fresh graduates? Experience and internships should be done away with permanently for they serve as barriers and disadvantage that makes it difficult for graduates or the youth to get employed. So once these barriers are removed, the youth especially graduates would easily and stand a better chance of getting jobs. Even the president of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa supports this logic, for he highlighted this point during his June 16th (2018) commemoration in Soweto. Only time would tell if he meant what he said. Politicians are exceptional at making populists statement and highlighting or touching on whatever that would grab people’s attention.

Land – This aspect needs to be addressed. Land should be made available to the youth because most of the time when they get employed they opt rental instead of buying properties for themselves because properties are expensive. Therefore land needs to be expropriated without compensation and be given the youth to build their own homes on a piece of plot or land given to them for free. Because most of them find themselves in almost life-time massive debts because the prices of land in South Africa are crazily high for 80 percent South African to afford and those that have managed to buy land they are heavily indebted – that’s why most have only qualified to buy their homes through joint bond account or somehow they systems were manipulated to make one look as if they qualify to buy a home even though one does not. We should never in-debt the youth immediately when they get employed.