Today's youth face a different struggle from '76

FILE IMAGE: President Ramaphosa is flanked by the first 100 beneficiaries of the Youth Employment Service (YES).
FILE IMAGE: President Ramaphosa is flanked by the first 100 beneficiaries of the Youth Employment Service (YES).
Image: Nomahlubi Jordaan

South Africa has opted to dedicate the month of June towards supporting and celebrating youth across the country. This is in response to the bravery and the ultimate sacrifice made by the youth of 1976, who faced the brutal force of the apartheid government and defeated Afrikaans as the supreme language of the land.

June 16 is therefore a deserved holiday. A day of rest that must at least give all citizens time to reflect deeply about the plight of youth in this country.

With unemployment for the youth standing at 55.2%, the daily struggles of youth in the country are well-recorded and are there for everyone to see. Even more concerning is the number of youth in correctional facilities, which is not decreasing.

This clearly says that the youth of today is fighting a far distinct and different battle from the one of 1976.

It can never be normal for the youth to take residence at correctional centres, instead of being out there realising their full potential and fulfilling their role as agents of change, reconstruction and development.

The gospel of rehabilitation is the epicentre of corrections in this country. It is no surprise that the department of correctional services (DCS) managed to place 86,518 (82%) of sentenced inmates in various correctional programmes in the 2017/18 financial year.

The DCS is rolling out a number of skills development programmes aimed at addressing the socio-historic and economic challenges counted amongst the root cause of crime in SA.

Agriculture has been identified as one of the niche markets in SA, and the DCS has decided to intensify training in this area, hence we are now equipping many inmates with agricultural skills and training.

It is thus exciting to note an increasing number of inmates opting for agriculture as a career of choice, and currently, more than 3,300 offenders are participating daily in agricultural activities.

The department is further encouraged by a demand for formal education and training programmes, as almost 11,000 inmates have access to adult education and training.

This prioritisation of the education and skilling of offenders is part of rehabilitation aimed at assisting inmates to return to their communities as better, changed and law-abiding citizens.

The DCS has established 14 formal schools in cooperation with the department of basic education. Through formal education, offenders are given a second chance to improve their educational levels and also to improve their potential to create a better future beyond incarceration.

As we reflect on the struggle waged by the heroes and heroines who have gone before us, we must do so in recognition that their selfless acts set the stage for a new democratic South Africa.

The 25 years of democracy must be recognised as a milestone as there is no doubt that South Africa is today a better place to live in than what it was in 1994. Our accomplishments as a country speak for themselves; they range from increased political stability, a vibrant and robust constitutional democracy, six successful national and local elections and free education.

We need to grow the economy so that we can create the much-needed jobs and give hope to many young people who resort to a life of crime due to socioeconomic conditions.

It is often said that the youth are our future leaders, but this can only be practical when the youth is given opportunities to develop their full potential and make South Africa the best country to live in.

-Nxumalo is spokesperson for the department of correctional services

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