Dr Gloria Marsay

South Africa continues to face an economic-socio-political crisis. The harsh reality of South Africa’s economic crisis suggests one of the highest Gini Coefficients in the world. Unemployment figures continue to rise. The draft policy issued by the Department of Higher Education and Training reveals that 68% of South Africa’s unemployed are in the 15-34 age cohort. Furthermore, using the expanded definition which includes “workers who have given up hope”, unemployment stands at 36%. Three years ago the White Paper for Post-School Education and Training identified the need for a new approach to career development. The #Fees must Fall and #Rhodes must Fall protests, highlight the fact that institutions of Higher Education and Training in South Africa continue to display a pedagogic crisis. So the gap between rich and poor continues to widen.

In the past, inequality in South Africa was largely defined along race lines. However, the Human Sciences Research Council draws our attention to the gap between rich and poor, having increased substantially within each population group. Prevailing difficulties within the economic-socio-political arena, contribute to poverty and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness among both privileged and disenfranchised young people across all races. Their hope for a successful future is often diminished by a plethora of challenges. Even though adequate policy has been documented in the Freedom Charter of the African National Congress, in reality there is still a serious deficit in providing young people with the resources they need to earn a living.

Difficulties continue to be experienced with the transition from education to work. Young people lack appropriate marketable skills, and many of them are disempowered by various discourses in society, including one that leads them to believe they must have a degree to get a job. This is not always so. The world of work has changed. Jobs are scarce.

In today’s world, young people need to navigate their own way into the world of work using three fundamental attributes: marketable skills, self-determination and a hopeful attitude. These contribute towards being able to earn a livelihood. Being hopeful about one’s ability and one’s future is essential to success. Without hope, there is little meaning to making decisions and being committed to the future.

So let’s do hope.
Sometimes psychological language exists outside everyday common usage. However, “hope” is a commonly used word. The language of hope is cross cultural and the theory of hope can be drawn from many different disciplines including psychology, philosophy, art, theology and medicine. Hope creates a bridge of possibilities between the present and the future. It is a state of expectation that gives meaning and purpose to being and doing.

Several different theories examining the constructs of hope have been put forward by experts. Hope is focused on a positive future outcome that is personally important and empowering. Hope was explained by Snyder as the perceived ability to produce pathways to achieve desired goals and to motivate oneself to use those pathways. Scioli et al. (2011) describes fundamental hope as a skill that can be learned, which is future-directed and constructed from biological, psychological, and social resources. Family, culture, and spiritual beliefs play an essential role in developing confidence and competence, good relationships, and techniques to survive in a world of uncertainty. Furthermore, Scioli and his colleagues suggest that having a personal faith system is essential for hopefulness. However, faith does not have to be “religious in nature”. Different sources of faith help to enhance hope. For some, faith is in a higher power, while for others faith can develop through interaction with family and friends. Faith is the result of belief that a situation will improve in the future, despite what is happening in the present. Faith awakens hope.

Hope has been identified as a key element to success in planning one’s future. Recent research suggests a positive correlation between high hope scores and success in the world of work (Smith et al., 2014; Ginevra, et al., 2016). A study by Cheavens et al. (2006), suggests that by turning attention to hope, there is likely to be movement toward increasing human potential individually and collectively.

But hope is not a plan
Hope offers the ability to hold onto the thought that one can accomplish success if one has the right essentials for a plan, and puts that plan into action. So pay attention to the following steps and put plans into action.
• Set realistic goals taking into account available resources.
• Plan pathways towards achieving set goals
• Operationalise plans and set timelines
• Find social support that will be helpful and hopeful
• Acquire skills that are marketable
• Develop survival skills and become street wise in the world of work
• Get back to basics of values and morals that contribute to our individual well-being AND to the well-being of society. These basics give meaning and purpose to one’s life and work.
Find work that needs to be done. Acquire the skills it needs. Then look for someone who will pay to have that work done.

What’s your anchor?
One of the symbols of hope is the anchor. A device that saves ships from being tossed around by winds and waves in a storm. Sailors throw an anchor to grab onto something solid, promising safety to the endangered crew. The Psychology of Hope may be an anchor that provides the stability of a safe place, as South Africa’s fragmented people step into an unpredictable future.



Dr Gloria Marsay is both a registered educational psychologist and a registered pastoral therapist. She presented her research on hope at the 22nd annual South African Psychology Congress held in Johannesburg during 20-23 September 2016.


  • PsySSA, the Psychological Society of South Africa, is the national professional body for psychology. Committed to transforming and developing psychological theory and practice in South Africa, PsySSA strives to serve the needs and interests of a post-apartheid country by advancing psychology as a science, profession and as a means of promoting human well-being. This blog hopes to engage psychologists and citizens in debating issues, from mental health to the socio-political. Visit www.psyssa.com


Psychological Society of South Africa

PsySSA, the Psychological Society of South Africa, is the national professional body for psychology. Committed to transforming and developing psychological theory and practice in South Africa, PsySSA strives...

Leave a comment