June has come and gone. Meaning we now find ourselves in full winter mode; we have officially passed the half way mark in culminating this year; and all things youth will be shelved to only be spoken of the following year when it is convenient to do so. But as young people have showed us in the past and recent memory, revolutions are neither polite nor convenient, writes Madelain Roscher, CEO of Status Reputation Management Consultancy.
Borrowing from the spirit of the 1976’s youth, South Africa’s contemporary young people have achieved various milestones of their own. The #FeesMustFall movements come to mind as one such example. These movements highlight how much collective power young people possess.
But even collective effort without the necessary support is unlikely to wield optimistic results. Young people have the vision and energy to lead this country in all spheres of governance, corporate and social policy. But industry captains and seasoned political leaders must be willing to offer opportunities to young people for them to lead.
Political parties, including government, must have clear succession plans, which allow for young people to be groomed to enter the political sphere. There are 490 members of parliament, excluding the 70 ministers and deputies, but only 23 of those count as young (under 35 years). If we wish to drive change in the lives of young people and the country, then politics cannot continue to be an old boys’ club. In a democracy, politics and the government should comprise people who represent the country’s demographics, young and old.
Given the violence and abuse that young women and children are currently facing at the hands of a patriarchal system as well as HIV and the high levels of youth unemployment, civil society should be advocating for a government department that is managed by the youth with the sole mandate of uplifting the younger generation.
Giving young people the platform to participate in the national dialogue and nation building means they can come up with tangible solutions to the various socio-economic woes this nation and the world at large face.
But we cannot place the progression of a whole generation solely on the government. Private corporations and citizens, including the youth, need to do more to ensure they have relevant skills and resources to succeed.
A starting point is education. While we may have attained free education, it will only work if young people are afforded good quality basic education. There is a discord between what is taught at the basic education level and what institutions of higher learning offer.
Curriculums at all levels need to reflect the demographics and needs of the country. In other words, students need to be able to relate to what they are being taught and apply that knowledge in the real world, thus making them employable.
In the field of public relations, marketing and communications, invigorating social media campaigns coupled with relevant and relatable content is the order of the day, and no one understands this better than young people. This is evidenced by the large numbers of young PR professionals in the industry.
Young people have immense potential and a knack for embracing new technology-driven methods. They see disruptive innovations as opportunities and not hurdles. Because PR is about destabilising what is considered normal, young people not only thrive in such an industry, but shape the very course in which it moves. All industries need to try to hire more young people. The economy and corporations can gain immensely from hiring the youth.
As a nation, we have made enormous progress but more can always be done. If we are to move the nation and its youth forward, it requires that everyone – government, corporates and citizens – acknowledge that they have an active role to play in the process.
Importantly, industry captains should be cognisant of the role young people have played in attaining certain liberties and be willing to provide a platform for them to continue being innovative solution providers, especially in the wake of a digital revolution.