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By unknown | Jun 18, 2010 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

ARISTOTLE believed that youth is easily deceived because it is quick to hope.

ARISTOTLE believed that youth is easily deceived because it is quick to hope.

As South Africa marked 34 years since the historic student march of 1976, it is worth reminding ourselves why those young people risked all and faced the might of the apartheid police. They had hope. And the hope and fervency of being young convinced them that they were invincible and that they could vanquish the enemy.

How do you explain that teenagers from a decimated poor society would march unarmed through the streets of Soweto, in admirable defiance of the formidable enemy called apartheid?

They were clearly outgunned and weak compared to the military force of the apartheid regime. But they must have had a weapon that no amount of bullets and tear-gas would bring down and that weapon was hope.

When you are young and exuberant, nothing can stand in the way of your goals and dreams.

Those pupils had a purpose and a feisty determination to achieve their goals. When the apartheid government insisted on clipping their wings and giving them an inferior education, they knew they deserved better.

Today's youth deserve better and what a pity that despite the blood that was spilled, the tears that have fallen and thousands of lives torn apart, we are still living in a society where quality education is inaccessible to many.

Education has been promised time and time again.

Sixty years ago education was set as a basic human right for every person, and enshrined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in 1948.

However, today 75million children in the world are denied the chance to go to school.

These children could be our next generation's leaders, sports stars, doctors and teachers.

But they face a lifelong struggle against poverty.

In fact, it doesn't have to be this way.

In 2000, 164 world governments came together to create the Education for All goals, 189 governments also created the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

Unicef has stressed that although almost all of the Millennium Development Goals are interdependent, achieving two of them - universal education and gender equality - are vital to meeting all the others.

It would not be fair to say the government is not doing anything. There are efforts but they are clearly not commensurate with the extent of the problems.

We experiment with one education policy after another, all to the detriment of our young people. How on earth are they supposed to hunger for education when our policy makers are dithering, creating a new policy with much fanfare, only for the next minister in office to abandon it in favour of another.

On the employment side, the South African government has proposed to raise the employment levels of school leavers by an additional 500000 by 2013, through a proposed youth wage-subsidy scheme.

About 870000 jobs were lost in 2009 as a result of the recession, pushing the country's unemployment rate to 24,3percent, its highest level in five years.

While job cuts and retrenchments are partly responsible for the rise in unemployment, the fact that job creation had nearly halved over the past 12 months, as companies cut back on hiring new employees, has had a bigger effect on unemployment.

It is impossible for young people to be employable when the quality of education gives them no chance in life.

Youth unemployment is particularly harsh in its effects. For your dreams to be thwarted before they even take off, for a mind to be idle and dispirited while still young and impressionable, sets the tone for the duration of life.

And who wants to start life with doors shutting in your face at every turn?

Our newspapers are filled with stories of youth problems, seemingly without solutions, yet even as we lament this, we are forced to concede that this is indeed a better country than what it was 34 years ago.

But can we produce leaders who can help the country navigate through the current problems and ensure the promise of a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and free future for our youth?

If we do not achieve this, then we would have deceived many young people and killed the hopes of future generations.


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