It is youth month and youth unemployment is in the spotlight. The figures are shocking: over 70% of the unemployed are younger than 34. This means very clearly that schools, colleges and universities are failing spectacularly. Of the one million children who enrolled for school in 2000, 50 % wrote exams in matric in 2011, of these 30% passed. The question remains: what happened to the 500 000 who dropped out along the way?
Government and NGOs alike are clutching at straws seeking all kinds of solutions to this problem – from the wage subsidy, to apprenticeships, to vocational training. The gap between school and post-matric training, however, is something few people are talking about, least of all tackling. Some NGOs involved in trying to fill this critical lacuna, excel in preparing the youth for the world of work against all odds. Yet government ignores this aspect of youth development.
The annual ceremony of the President’s Award for Youth Empowerment took place on the 24th May in Riebeeck West. One hundred and ninety-three young people were awarded with Bronze and Silver Awards for their achievements. As youth-at-risk the scars of neglect and poverty were vaguely visible on their faces, and had been wiped away by the rigour of this diversion programme.
Operating in 17 regional award units, the Programme covers mostly rural areas such as Clanwilliam, Eersterivier, Robertson, Worcester, Vredenburg, Riebeeck Valley, Klipheuwel, Wellington, Porterville, Wolseley, and Franschhoek; and some urban areas such as Elsies River, Athlone, Ottery, Athlone, and Wynberg.
One hundred and ninety-three young people from residential youth care facilities and community youth groups, received the medals for succeeding in four areas of activity: service to the community; physical recreation; skills development; an adventurous journey. The going mantra is holistic development and it puts the onus on the youth to achieve their own transformation.
The course encourages personal discovery, growth, self reliance, perseverance, responsibility and service to the community. The Service course entails living and working with others, in a residence, over a period of five days. The Adventurous Journey tests their spirit of endurance by sending them on a journey either by foot, boat, bicycle, or horseback but it must be preceded by proper training, preparation, self-reliance and the exploration of their new surroundings. The Skills component encourages the development of personal interests and practical skills. Physical recreation requires the youth to be involved in some form of organised physical activity in which they should demonstrate individual progress.
This 28 year old programme based on the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, started in 1956, has been tried and tested across 130 countries globally, currently boasting 850 000 participants internationally. The organisation claims that over the past eight years, “Award participants in South Africa have collectively undertaken 405,024 hours of community service, estimated to be valued at R 8, 100, 480 worth.”
Some years ago the President’s Award received an Impumelelo award. In similar award-winning projects that provide extra mentorship in maths and science in addition to life skills, the pupils claim that they did well in maths and science BECAUSE of the life skills training! Roll it out to all provinces with money from the National Youth Development Programme instead of paying those who run it, into the ground, millions of Rand.