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Chester Missing’s more real than the NYDA

By Willie Tafadzwa Chinyamurindi

Dear Yershen Pillay, the chairperson of the National Youth Development Agency

Yershen, youths like kids often say the darndest things.

I challenged my students during a class to think radically concerning issues on employability and the insurmountable challenges facing youths in our country. The usual answers ensued, “government must provide a job for me”. This made me think of that riveting and piercing writ by Clem Sunter with the title, “Pretoria will provide and other myths”.

This notion of expectancy of a job from government is really superfluous and creates a crippling dependency mentality.

So as a class we began to debunk some of these prevalent societal myths and also practically suggest ways young people can be creators of jobs. Such discussions are very emotive as they speak about future citizenry but highlight their concerns.

In this exchange mention was made of the organisation of which you now chair the board, the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA). This I guess is the reason I am writing to you, congratulations are in order by the way comrade. I have to be frank with you though. Many wait with eager anticipation to see how exactly the new NYDA will emerge as colossus and a champion for job creation and igniting the entrepreneurial spirit among our young people.

One of my students is rather sceptic about your organisation and boldly declared:

“Yho, Sir, the NYDA is a non-entity, Chester Missing is more real than the NYDA” accompanying this comment was a ripple laughter across the class. A nice way to start a Monday with a comical yet sincere concern.

Though we laughed it off as a class one can detect the scepticism around the NYDA and no disrespect to Chester Missing.

The journey accompanying you and your board comrade is steeped with arduous challenges. Your number one priority is of re-branding the NYDA with the hope of winning back sceptical constituents like my student. The relevance of the NYDA has been questioned in the past couple of years, synonymous with the “kissing festival” a few years back.

So please begin by winning back the hearts of young people. Tell us what has changed from the previous regime apart from the recycling of faces. I note that in term of section 9 (2) of the National Youth Development Agency Act of 2008 (Act No 54 2008) the shelf-life of you and your board is for three years. This Yershen is not a long-time. Start working and fulfilling your mandate from the word go.

Articulation of problems faced by young people is so easy; this is the dominant narrative from our public officials. Frankly, it’s a tired narrative as it does not go beyond the obvious. Perhaps that’s what young people want, an entity that goes beyond the obvious and is seen delivery on its mandate. A word of advice comrade, please keep your ear to the ground and listen to young people. Your effectiveness as a board depends on this.

While at this Yershen, please be accessible to young people. Avoid talk-shops and cheap politicking, young people can easily read through this veneer. Please be open and transparent in your dealings, young people appreciate these tenets of character.

Remember also Yershen, young people don’t easily suffer from amnesia and become forgetful. They remember with vivid clarity entities such as the National Youth Commission and Umsobomvu Youth Fund. Oh how much these have fallen to become rubble and fodder as case-study material of failures in addressing the challenge of youth unemployment.

So I guess comrade you would appreciate the guarded optimism from young people about the new NYDA. All the best in the challenges ahead.

Willie Tafadzwa Chinyamurindi is a part-time lecturer at a private FET college in East London. He writes this letter fresh from discussing a chapter in a prescribed text dealing with challenges facing young people in South Africa.