Education the best gift for youth

IT IS that time of the year again - the time to celebrate the courage and spirit of the youth. During this month, the country celebrates the invaluable contribution the young guns made in the struggle against the evil system of apartheid. June is dubbed youth month.

On June 16 1976, the youth of this country took it upon themselves and fought against the oppressive language, which was the medium of instruction then, Afrikaans.

They confronted the armed police force with stones until the apartheid regime relented to their demand and scrapped Afrikaans as a medium of instruction.

To accommodate white youth, who strongly felt alienated, the black-led and democratically elected government decided to take the reconciliation route and renamed June 16 Youth Day. Hence June is celebrated as youth month.

Doesn't the renaming of June 16 to Youth Day amount to the desecration of our historic day? That is a topic for another day.

During this month, the youth will be told how disinterested they are in politics and that their main interest lies in material things. Also, they will be reminded that our struggle heroes died for the freedom they enjoy today and they should vehemently defend it.

The point we seem to miss is that the youth don't live in a vacuum and that whatever they do mirrors our own society. If the young lions have no interest in politics, that reflects us as a society. Are we doing enough, if anything at all, to give our kids political education?

It's a pity that we wish the present generation could be like that of yesteryear. The youth of today live in different times and different circumstances and as such should be allowed to just be. We should, as a nation, also appreciate the fact that their challenges are different from those of the past.

When Nelson Mandela was released from jail, he told the youth at a packed Orlando Stadium to go back to school and learn. Mandela made that bold statement during the time when the young and impressionable were prepared to abandon the classroom for the struggle.

Mandela said the right thing, not what the young guns wanted to hear, and the reasonable among them listened .

Mandela should know the value of education because he is educated himself - he is a lawyer by profession.

It is unlikely that Tata could have been the first democratically elected president of this country had he lacked education. This shows that education plays a vital role in the development of a person and country.

The best gift we can give to our youth is education. If our country is to grow and develop, our focus should be on education. If we are to nurture and groom the Mandelas of tomorrow, we must make sure that our young people get the necessary education.

Mandela's message is still relevant today. As we celebrate youth month in different parts of the country, we must champion Mandela's call that the youth go to school and learn.

Education will deliver them from the bondage of poverty and unemployment.

l Mange works for Joburg Water. He writes in his personal capacity.