We owe it to the class of 1976 to empower young African people

School children march through the streets of Soweto in 1976 to protest against the use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in black schools. The writer says through education, employment and entrepreneurship today's youth can be a solution to African problems. /Bongani Mnguni
School children march through the streets of Soweto in 1976 to protest against the use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in black schools. The writer says through education, employment and entrepreneurship today's youth can be a solution to African problems. /Bongani Mnguni

In South Africa, June is youth month. Such an honour was paid in full by the youth of 1976, who rose up against an unjust system of oppression.

Heroes like Tsietsi Mashinini, Hastings Ndlovu, Hector Pieterson, Mbuyisa Makhubo and Antoinette Sithole will never be forgotten for the role they played together with many others on June 16 1976.

Sadly, many others aren't known or celebrated like the few I have just mentioned.

As a young female farmer, I'm eternally grateful to those who sacrificed their lives for my freedom. The youth of 1976 always walk with me through my daily farming duties.

We have a duty as farmers to cultivate the land and ensure food security and access for South Africans.

There are many challenges that still face the youth but, like the the class of 1976, we must fight on.

The lesson learnt from the youth of 1976 is that there is progress to be made through unity on priority issues that affect young people.

Youth unemployment on the continent, for example, ranges from about 13% in sub-Saharan Africa to 30% in some north African states, a troubling statistic that illustrates the untapped talent and huge resources of the youth talent that can shift the narrative of Africa.

In South Africa, all the disadvantaged youth now have access to government-sponsored tertiary education.

Education is one of the game changers in the advancement and social mobility of the youth in our country and across the continent.

The low levels of human development index across many African countries require urgent attention. The index can be improved through imparting our youth with relevant skills necessary for a developmental state like South Africa.

Key industries of mining, agriculture, tourism and ICT (information and communications technology) are important for the prosperity of the country and, therefore, our youth must be empowered to flood these sectors through access to education.

This will provide South Africa with the much-needed skills to grow the economy and eradicating unemployment.

The fiery spirit of the youth of 1976 should be emulated by many embarking on the journey of entrepreneurship.

Often formal employment is inaccessible because it requires a minimum experience of five years. However, many young people do not possess this experience.

Thanks to our forebears, we have many examples of youth excellence in the country to celebrate Youth Day. Today's youth are taking their rightful place in shaping the discourse for the future of South Africa.

Even across the continent, collaboration among young people is taking shape and should be encouraged.

African youth will shape the future of the continent and, through collaboration, continue to develop African solutions to African problems.

There are new initiatives on offer like the YES initiative - Youth Employment Service - which aims to get the youth into learnerships and provide them with the much-needed experience required by many companies, as well as some formal tertiary qualification.

Through the three E's - education, employment and entrepreneurship - the youth can lead our nation.

Functional societies need to prioritise these aspects among the youth to ensure the development of the country.

This will ensure a sustainable and viable future, one in which all South Africans can share in equally.

As President Cyril Ramaphosa echoed in his State of the Nation Address, South Africans must stand up and heed a call to duty as productive citizens - Thuma Mina! Young people must therefore aim to be part of the solution to their country's problems and, all we ask for as the youth, is to be given the opportunities to develop.

Prosperity for the youth equals prosperity for the nation and the continent.

This, for me, is the legacy that we can carry forth for those who so gallantly fought for us to be free.

X