By Khethelo Xulu
The gloomy outlook on the attainment of economic freedom in SA is yet to be spelt out to the disadvantaged and desperate young citizens of the nation. Unemployment, poverty and the lack of access to natural resources such as land are the issues that plague our societies the most. In particular, they plague our townships and rural areas, which are primarily populated by black South Africans.
The youth, characterised by a high rate of unemployment, is extremely frustrated. The disparate political youth structures call for different approaches to solve this problem. Each structure blames someone or something different for the current state of the youth. Whose fault is it really?
One can expect many answers to this question. Some parties blame the economic systems, such as capitalism. Others blame the greedy business people who are only interested in generating profits at the expense of poor people, in their land. Despite having all these answers, we are still failing somehow. What is the real problem in our country?
When I look at the calibre of leaders who seem to advocate for the youth, I start to worry even more. The majority of the unemployed in our country lack necessary skills. They are also not aware of the things that can give them freedom. If you ask most unemployed individuals what job they want, it is unlikely you will get a straight answer. Often you will be met by the following response: “Any job.” What is any job? The situation is very grave indeed.
Irrespective of this state of affairs, youth leaders are found channelling their energy into other matters. They are not telling the youth to work hard so that they can liberate themselves. It is my belief that, if youth leaders in the country mobilise young people to acquire necessary skills; motivate them to get an education; inform them of the different opportunities available to them and inspire them to create opportunities for themselves, unemployment among the youth will decrease sharply.
Young people in SA’s poorest areas are demotivated. They do not know or understand terms such as economic freedom, land redistribution, and so forth, which are bandied about by youth leaders. In all likelihood, they do not care. All they are concerned with is getting through the day.
Is it not time for the nation to go back to basics and begin to inspire the youth to learn more? It has been proven that education plays a pivotal role in the advancement of any nation. Without it substantial development and economic growth cannot be achieved. The education process must facilitate the widening of minds. It must also refine their individual character and behaviour, moulding them to be key contributors and problem-solvers in their respective societies and countries.
It is high time our communities deepen their understanding of the value of education. Education, more specifically a well-rounded education, develops the individual as a whole. One’s life-skills are enhanced, one is taught to uphold the tenets of civility, diligence, integrity, loyalty and excellence. It is through proper education, from parents to child and to peers that our economic systems will be liberated.
Economic freedom will never ever come on a silver platter wrapped with red ribbons. It requires hard work, readiness and, the requisite skills. Education is the foundation for the development of the nation. Perhaps the time has come for us to question ourselves as the youth on the type of leaders that we elect to follow. We want leaders who can make a difference. We do not want leaders who are only vocal about our needs while they are living good lives. Let us as the youth get educated and liberate ourselves and our communities. The power lies not in the hands of those who lead us but in us freeing our minds through education. As former president Nelson Mandela once said: “Education is the powerful weapon that can be used to change the world.”
Khethelo Xulu is a master’s researcher in medical sciences at the University of Cape Town (UCT); One Young World ambassador; SA’s Brightest Young Minds alumni and UCT Emerging Leaders alumni. He currently offers career guidance and mentorship to high school students within the Obuka tribal authority outside Empangeni, KwaZulu-Natal, SA.