On Monday the 16th celebrations which honoured the class of ’76, who fought and died for their liberation and profoundly changed the socio-political landscape in South Africa.
The youth of 1976’s demand was for the removal of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction and the reformation of the Bantu Education system – which was designed to provide them only with the skills necessary to serve only under white people in low-income labour markets and not for jobs that they aspired to have. Even though the Bantu education system allowed the youth of 1976 to attend schools, their major struggle against the lack of facilities fit to affording them with skills to perform to the best of their abilities.
The end of apartheid in South Africa provided black people the opportunity to vote and have equal rights, making South Africa a democratic country. However the youth of 2014 are facing different struggles to those of 1976. Although there is no doubt that the youth of 2014 are far more developed in terms of their education because of greater access to quality information and freedom of speech, they are also facing their own struggles that have become obstacles in their daily lives.
One of the biggest challenges is the lack of jobs that causes poverty amongst the youth. Young people are no longer confident about their future, as there is no guarantee that after graduating from a tertiary institution there are jobs waiting for them. Therefore a generation of young people with no hope of getting a job are likely to turn to crime and engage in drug and alcohol abuse to support their families. Due to the vast economic and social problems faced by the youth, many of them turn to drug and alcohol abuse as an escape. Even though we have access to information and equal rights, the negative part of being a youth in 2014 is that we do not know where our future lies in the workplace.
Another commonplace struggle faced by the youth of 2014 is the financial difficulty that comes with paying university and college fees. Many young people can’t afford to go to school because of the high tuition fees. Therefore they can’t pursue the education and careers they want. In this democratic society young people might have the platform to speak their mind and criticise the government without getting punished for it, unlike the youth of 1976, but their cries over issues such as education equality and assistance in getting financial aid often fall on deaf ears. Students are likely to drop out of their studies because of high stress over financial problems.
In the everyday lives of the youth of 2014, there is a glaring shortage of good leaders – whether in politics or the media industry – who can guide young people to make better decisions about their future. The youth of 1976 had good role models to motivate and influence them positively about decision making such as Stephen Bantu Biko, Miriam Makeba and other influential singers and anti-apartheid icons as well. We need more good leaders who will help us to make a positive change in society and help solve major issues concerning our country. We need someone who will respond to our needs and wants and help to focus our energies toward solving issues such as unemployment.
Although there are many differences between the struggles that faced the youth of ‘76 and those that face the youth of 2014, one can see that both generations do not hesitate to voice their opinions and views about politics and in the fight for what they believe is theirs. In 2014, young people are aware of the current government and its policies, but nevertheless do not allow themselves to be manipulated; instead they question the state and its service delivery record amongst other things. When compared, both generations face the common struggle to make their voices heard, but nevertheless strive for a better future with equal opportunities for all.
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