Remembering the Youth of 1976!

On the 16th of June 1976 between 3 000 and 10 000 students marched peacefully towards the Orlando Stadium in response to the language of Afrikaans alongside English being made compulsory as a medium of instruction in schools in 1974. On their pathway they were met by heavily armed police under the Apartheid Government who fired teargas and later live ammunition on demonstrating students. This resulted in a widespread revolt that turned into an uprising against the government. While the uprising began in Soweto, it spread across the country and carried on until the following year. The death toll of the Uprising is estimated to be around 176 with over 1000 injuries. The events of June 16th 1976 significantly amplified the call for a free, liberated & democratic South Africa. We salute the youth of 1976 who stood up against injustice & sacrificed their lives for the education & freedom we have today.

Whilst South Africa has made some progress regarding the improvement of education, there are still significant challenges that face both the education system & youth in general. In late 2017, President Jacob Zuma announced free tertiary education for poor & working class families with a combined annual income of R350 000. Whilst we believe that this is a step in the right direction we are concerned that primary & secondary level education is neglected. The Department of Basic Education’s figures, show that in 2016 1,100,877 learners enrolled for Grade 10 in 2014, but only 610,178 enrolled for Grade 12 in 2016 – showing an alarming rate of 44.6% of learners either dropping out of the system altogether or remaining stuck in Grade 10 and 11. In 2017 the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) report highlighting SA literacy levels. The report sheds light on South Africa’s devastating literacy crisis, revealing that 78% of grade four learners in South Africa cannot read for meaning. This is an alarming statistic the shows the urgency for Governments intervention in both Primary & Secondary levels of Education.

Another challenge facing the youth of today is South Africa’s high unemployment rate. The unemployment rate among young people aged 15–34 was 38,2%, implying that more than one in every three young people in the labour force did not have a job in the first quarter of 2018. Graduates make up almost 7% of this number. The high unemployment rate among young people often lead to criminal activity & substance abuse due to desperation.

As we reflect on the journey since 1976, there is no doubt that both from an educational & youth perspective South Africa has made some level of progress, however there is an urgent need for Government, Private & Non-Profit sectors to collaborate and hold each other accountable in ensuring greater economic opportunities for youth in South Africa. Implementing a higher stand in our education system & decreasing the unemployment rate should be Governments top priority.

The mandate of Jems Foundation is succession & legacy, therefore over the next 3 months we will look into various ways that we can assist young people both in their personal development & career development. We will also continue to make our voice heard to Government regarding various issues affecting the youth of South Africa.

Author: Caleb Singh on behalf of Jems Foundation