Nosipho Gumede
4 minute read
16 Jun 2022
06:00

Opinion | Youth Day, what exactly are we celebrating?

Nosipho Gumede

Youth Day, a day to commemorate the Soweto uprising youth of 1976 who fought for quality education and against Bantu education.

OPINION:


Youth Day, a day to commemorate the Soweto uprising youth of 1976 who fought for quality education and against Bantu education.

However, it is 2022, 46 years later, and students are picketing for fees to fall, for NSFAS funding issues, and for Wi-Fi connection. Students are protesting online exams or the way universities manage the institution.

Students protest at the slightest inconvenience because they have the right to free speech, and that right cannot be taken away from them. It’s a narrative they learnt from the youth of 1976, and I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that.

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I get that you want to fight for what’s right. However, do you have to vandalise school property and intimidate other students who don’t want to participate, including staff members?

I was a student not so long ago and let me tell you, these political student organisations are a joke.

I was once chased out of a classroom, where chairs, tables and computers were being tossed around. This was because some of us did not want to participate in a strike. At that time, I had a test scheduled and wanted to consult with my lecturer on a few issues.

“South Africa has thousands of educated young people sitting at home with their qualifications, all because they are not given an opportunity to flourish.”
Nosipho Gumede

Imagine ducking a keyboard and running for your life because you are scared that politically affiliated students might attack you for being in class.

Imagine having to run out of class because there is a fire somewhere on campus that protesting students have started. The chaos, the trauma, the fear, the confusion. It is all just too much. I tell you, these are crazy times.

Then there’s the issue of unemployment. The majority of today’s youth do not even have jobs, so what exactly are we celebrating? I sometimes ask myself if this is what the youth of 1976 died for.

The youth, which should be the “future of tomorrow”, is far from being the “future of tomorrow”. Just take a look at the current unemployment rate.

South Africa has thousands of educated young people sitting at home with their qualifications, all because they are not given an opportunity to flourish.

We even have qualified doctors who are sitting at home with their qualifications because they can’t find jobs, whereas our government is busy hiring doctors from Cuba.

Imagine studying hard and graduating in order to get a good job. You are then told that you cannot be hired because you do not have enough experience for the job, or because you are overqualified. It’s really mind boggling.

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What does this country want from us? I mean, you see so many countries with young people in high positions, like Namibia’s 25-year-old deputy minister, Emma Theofilus, who was 23 when she was elected as deputy minister of information, communication, and technology.

Bogolo Kenewendo is the minister of investment, trade and industry in Botswana’s cabinet. She was appointed at age 30 and she became the youngest minister in Botswana’s history. John Paul Mwirigi (28) was elected in August 2017 at the age of 23, as the youngest ever Kenyan member of parliament.

“Should we still be celebrating Youth Day? Personally, I don’t think so. What is the point? I guess we can commemorate the youth of 1976 for fighting so hard for themselves, and that in return we also benefited from the fruits of their “labour”. However, other than that, I don’t think the youth of today has anything to celebrate.”
Nosipho Gumede

Then come to South Africa, where elderly men in their 60’s lead Youth Day summits and participate in youth day events. We are dealing with the same people who refuse to provide us with work opportunities while they engage in corrupt transactions that benefit only themselves.

The truth is that the youth of today also gets disregarded a lot. We get grouped into this narrative that we are reckless and irresponsible, and that’s why we are perceived as “the lost generation”. Adults forget that we are not all cut from the same cloth, and that some of us work very hard.

Should we still be celebrating Youth Day? Personally, I don’t think so. What is the point? I guess we can commemorate the youth of 1976 for fighting so hard for themselves, and that in return we also benefited from the fruits of their “labour”. However, other than that, I don’t think the youth of today has anything to celebrate.

For me, Youth Day is just a day off to run my errands, go out for lunch with friends, host a luncheon or sleep all day.

• Nosipho Gumede is a multimedia journalist at The Witness

• Nosipho Gumede is a multimedia journalist at The
• Nosipho Gumede is a multimedia journalist at The Witness.