By Yershen Pillay
Your open letter gives me hope. If we are to engage openly, honestly and constructively around the issues facing us as the youth and the country at large then we are certainly on the right path towards consolidating our democracy and building a better society.
Let me then engage the contents of your letter openly, honestly and constructively. What if I were to tell you that during the last three years of its existence the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) has created 73 920 direct jobs for young people? What if I were to say to you that since inception more young people have accessed career guidance information than ever before with the exact number being 556 611 youth? If I told you that currently there are 138 990 young South Africans enlisted in youth service programmes across the country would you believe me?
You probably would, be it with some reservations, probably drawn from the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY) festival or so-called “kissing festival”, which the NYDA once supported, and overshadowed much of the good work done by the NYDA. One must acknowledge that the agency got the administration of the festival all wrong. As the newly appointed chairperson I eagerly await the public protector’s report into the festival so that all may know the truth and closure can finally be brought to the matter.
The WFDY festival aside, you may continue to ponder as to why this progress cannot be felt on the ground. The reason being that 73 920 compared to the six million young South Africans between the ages of 14 and 35 who are jobless is only but a scratch on this bleak picture of youth unemployment.
Unfortunately the only manner in which the NYDA can make a significant impact is when young people themselves stop complaining and start leading this struggle. An institution alone is not enough to drive change but the agency located in young people themselves is a vital ingredient for success. Hence your point relating to the culture of entitlement and dependency that has crept into our ranks cannot be ignored. We must collectively displace this foreign culture with a renewed culture of independence and service aimed at building a more humane society.
Young people are angry and frustrated. I understand and appreciate such anger and frustration in the context of poverty, inequality and underdevelopment. However let me boldly declare that all is not lost. Let us unite and channel such anger and frustration strategically in solving the myriad of challenges we face. Of course we will never be able to provide meaningful opportunities to millions of young people in the space of three years.
If we can provide such opportunities to 100 000 youth or more I’m sure you would appreciate the effort Mr Chinyamurindi. This in the context of addressing the internal issues of the NYDA that alone will take the bulk of our three years in office. You are therefore quite right that three years is simply not enough and so we cannot promise much. Restoring credibility to the NYDA is an enormous task on its own. My plea to your students and to all young people is to support us without depending on us. You may not be one of the 100 000 or so who will receive support in whatever form from the NYDA but many who try and succeed may in fact benefit and go on to enjoy a better life.
Find hope in the joy of those who have earned their keep through hard work, sweat and tears. The duty of every young person is to strive on from the very moment. This is my message to every young person irrespective of what happens in the NYDA. That being said, the NYDA remains a public entity and young people should hold it accountable at all times. Thus questions relating to how the agency plans and directs its resources in pursuit of youth development are extremely important and can only be of great help to the NYDA. I only hope that those who raise such questions are as well-intentioned as you Mr Chinyamurindi.
I commit to visiting you and your students simply to listen and maybe even to develop new ideas and solutions for improving the work of the NYDA in a manner that is befitting of our growing democracy. As the newly appointed board, we will try our very best to be accessible to as many young people as possible and we will at all times be open and honest to young people so as to avoid making false promises. We will strive to always do the right thing no matter the circumstance. If we make honest mistakes, please forgive us as we are only human.
Your advice and constructive criticism is well received and noted Mr Chinyamurindi.
Mr Yershen Pillay
NYDA executive chairperson