The news that government plans to extend the child grant age has been met with an array of opinions. While some experts say this would help the youth, others are apprehensive. The voice sorely lacking from this discussion, however, is that of the youth itself. A report published by People’s Assembly in July 2014 shows that 31% of South Africans use social grants, while 70% of these South Africans are beneficiaries of the child support grant.
According to the article in the City Press of January 11, the Department of Social Development plans to extend the age limit for child grant beneficiaries from 18 to 23. Spokesperson for the minister, Lumka Oliphant, was quoted as saying that this was an “investment in human capital”. She also added that this intervention would be helpful to the country’s needy and orphaned youth. The responses to this announcement have been varying. We went to speak to some young people and youth experts on the matter:
What the youth have to say
Live, along with Activate! Youth Organisation, a network of youth leaders who work to drive positive change in their communities, took to Facebook to uncover how the youth feel about this, and we received heated reactions. Some accused the government of “giving fish, but not teaching the people how to fish”. They felt that more could be done to educate the youth as opposed to giving them handouts. Another view was that perhaps those who had completed their high school education could use the funding towards finding jobs and supporting themselves while at tertiary institutions.
Young experts weigh in
Siviwe Mafuna (28) is the founder of Ikamva NPO, based in Gauteng, which works to expose disadvantaged youth to employment opportunities. Siviwe says the grant would be especially useful for youth just out of high school, who can’t afford tertiary and are out looking for work. He says the money could be used for travelling fare as well as to buy basic needs while the young person has not found a job. This would make this time much more bearable, as financial difficulties can be more demotivating at this time. “That’s when they begin to lose hope and many fall victim to social ills, like crime and drug abuse” says Siviwe.
Mzwandile Msimang (29), is based in Johannesburg and has been a member of Activate since 2013. He says this move might worsen the drug problem among young people. “If the government just hands out money without requiring any responsibility from them, we might find ourselves supporting people’s drug addictions and other irresponsible behaviour.” He suggests that there be a needs analysis in place in order to determine whether the money is used for basic needs. He adds that a monitoring system should then follow. If beneficiaries are unemployed, they must engage in volunteer work in order to qualify for the money each month. “This way they will understand that there is no such thing as a handout and that one must contribute to the market in order to receive help from the government. They will learn to earn the money.”
While we await the verdict of whether this extension will become policy, we hope that the government will engage the youth to make sure that their voice and their needs are felt.
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Live from Parliament casts a youth lens on parliament and government, covering committees, policy-making, MPs, and the sitting of actual Parliament. Our team of youth journalists will be reporting Live from Parliament every week in partnership with the People’s Assembly and Indigo Trust.
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