Title: SA: S Ndebele: Commemoration of National Youth Day
Today marks the 32nd anniversary of the Soweto Uprising. On behalf of the people of KwaZulu-Natal, I bring you revolutionary greetings.
On the occasion of the 32nd Anniversary of the Soweto Uprising, we salute you, the fighting youth of our country. We salute you for your courage, determination and tireless struggle to liberate our people from all forms of discrimination and oppression.
The June 16, 1976 events will forever immortalise the role and contribution of the youth in the struggle for freedom and democracy in South Africa. The 1976 generation, aware and conscious of the implications of their actions, defied the rule of apartheid subjugation and challenged the use of the Afrikaans language in particular and Bantu education in general.
As youth you have taken the responsibility to fight against tyranny and oppression. By your very participation in the struggle for emancipation, you have made a decisive contribution to shaping the future of our nation.
Youth at the forefront
Your fathers and grandfathers are those young patriots, who were prepared to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people. They became an inspiration to the next generation of youth. During the 1980s, as the apartheid regime unleashed their 'Total Strategy' against the people of South Africa, it was the youth who responded, not by cowering into submission, but by intensifying internal resistance.
It was the Young Lions who made apartheid ungovernable, and forced the faltering National Party government to the negotiating table. At that crucial moment in our history, the youth were at the forefront. We find ourselves, again, at such a crucial moment where we honour our past and create a better future for all.
We must reflect on the meaning of that goal of a better life for all.
For the majority of our people, this 'better life' is not an abstract concept, but a practical response to the everyday reality of our people. It is about bricks, mortar and cement, the availability of school books, the price of maize meal, milk and bread, electricity that is cut off because of non-payment, water that has been disconnected and university fees that must be paid.
Some of our youth sit in street corners with no jobs, some are begging, some are not going to school, some are in jail and some are committing crime. June 16 has left a huge legacy for the youth of today. The activities of this generation and those before them were in pursuit of one single co-ordinated democratic education as part of a broader struggle aimed at defeating the apartheid regime.
In 1994 upon the inception of the democratic government of South Africa, June 16 was declared a national holiday in commemoration of this contribution to freedom and democracy in our country. Today our youth have a bigger picture, whilst benefiting from the opportunities of democracy, they too have a responsibility to build and shape their own destiny. Youth, today confront the challenge of unemployment, still face racial discrimination, the lack of skills to sustain decent jobs and challenges of HIV and AIDS, drugs and substance abuse.
The theme for this year's provincial celebrations, "Proud of Our Past, Certain about the Present, Confident about the Future, Proud to serve," combines the struggles and contributions of various generations of youth who have led South Africa in the past and present.
As young people you face the enormous challenge of consolidating the gains we have made in the national democratic revolution. As long as millions of our people live in shacks, when children go hungry and die of preventable diseases, when people cannot read and write, when people infected and affected by HIV and Aids are stigmatised and marginalised, it indicates that our work is far from complete. We have a lot of work to do if the rural poor cannot grow enough food even to feed themselves. For as long as the students in our schools struggle to read, write and calculate; for as long as the urban masses spend their winters under a cloud of smoke from coal fires because they do not have electricity, and for as long as young people are abusing drugs.
For as long as our people live in fear of violent crime; when women are raped and children abused; when our elderly are neglected; and orphans left destitute, the youth have a lot of work to do.
Our province has a youthful population. In 2001 there were 3 455 671 youth between the ages of 15 and 34, whilst the mid-year population estimates of 2007 set the figure at 3 820 000. This is nearly 11% higher over Census 2001. Thus, the youth constitute at least 38% of the provincial population. We realise, therefore, that the youth are the foremost social capital that requires priority investment.
Youth have rights, responsibilities and obligations as citizens, and these are legislated and contained in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. Therefore youth have the responsibility to promote and advance these rights in playing a positive developmental role in the province, to initiate actions that promote their own development and that of their communities and broader society.
Alleviating youth unemployment
The provincial government's injection in the last three years of R760 million into small, micro and medium enterprises (SMMEs) and co-operative development initiatives have largely benefited youth. Approximately 1 948 co-operatives and 1 526 SMMEs have benefited from this injection of funds. The provincial Youth Economic Empowerment (YEE) programme is focusing on encouraging and promoting youth businesses in the province through among others designing programmes that will provide youth with economic opportunities; and exposing youth entrepreneurs to economic opportunities through various exhibitions that have been held around Durban and Pietermaritzburg.
In collaboration with the Umsobomvu Youth Fund, government has supported youth entrepreneurship through a range of support services; and similarly, the National Youth Commission (NYC) and the South African Youth Council (SAYC) are actively propagating more attention on issues of youth unemployment and youth self-employment efforts.
The provincial government has initiated a series of inter-linking interventions such as the SMME Fund, Growth Fund, Co-operatives programme, Agrarian revolution and support programmes in the second economy. Strategies such as our Economic Development Strategy, Provincial Spatial Economic Development Strategy (PSEDS) and the KwaZulu-Natal Industrial Development Strategy have enabled the youth to become active players in the provincial economy.
Ithala Bank has committed itself to matching the provincial government's contribution to the SMME growth fund on a rand for rand basis. Based on current advances and portfolio mix, approximately 45 000 jobs will be created.
Over R95 million in grants has been committed to 182 Local Economic Development (LED) projects across the province, plus about R41 million has been leveraged from the private and public sector in the form of co-funding, giving a total project value of R136 million. We introduced the Gijima KwaZulu-Natal LED Support programme specifically to support projects that could assist disadvantaged people (including the youth) to improve their lives through economic activity.
Through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) our government continues to support unemployed youth. In the last financial year 1 681 unemployed youth were employed. Over 41% of the value of contracts was awarded to the youth through the EPWP Programme, and 29 youth contractors benefited from EPWP training programmes.
It is an accepted fact that the success of nations and their economies is dependent on their investment in education and training, both formal and informal and public and private. It is also clear that for us as a country and province to achieve and maintain levels of 4 to 6% growth, reduce unemployment and poverty by half by 2014, we need a skills revolution.
Skills development is the backbone on which every successful economy relies. This has been learnt from economies such as those of Malaysia, Japan, Ireland and New Zealand. In fact the skills revolution in Ireland and New Zealand was central to their economic revival and turnaround.
Research indicates that compared to national figures, KwaZulu-Natal show low levels of educational attainment and the level of educational achievement is, as you are aware, a crucial determinant of poverty. The province has approximately 1.8 million people who are illiterate.
For the past years, the provincial government has enhanced youth skills development and capacity improvement through recapitalisation of Further Education and Training (FET) colleges, establishment of a provincial learning academy, development of provincial human development strategy, and partnerships with tertiary academic institutions to address scarce skills.
The province is currently rolling out skills development interventions in the form of learnerships, internships and skills programmes targeting youth in the construction sector, manufacturing and engineering apprenticeships and transport and logistics. Fundamentally, our government has established an internship programme for unemployed post graduate youth. Our various departments have implemented learnership programmes.
Some examples include: At least 181 youth have received classroom training in plastering and bricklaying unit standards. More than 423 youth have been oriented into the National Youth Service Programme (NYSP), with over 600 more youth to be trained before the end of the year. After completing the 12 months programme, some of the young people who participated in the Integrated Home-Based Care Programme acquired credits towards being counsellors and others towards becoming auxiliary nurses.
KwaZulu-Natal has nine 'Further Education and Training' (FET) multi-campus colleges, where the youth can access skills training opportunities.
Poverty and illiteracy
It was estimated that in July 2002 there were 1,75 million people living in the province with HIV and AIDS. This has severe implications for the supply of skills and sustaining economic activity.
It is estimated that some five million people, constituting 54% of the total population of the province, received incomes below the poverty income level in 2004. The incidence of poverty is the highest in rural areas, where some 74% of the population lives on incomes below the poverty income level. Poverty is highest among African households.
Research has shown a link between poverty and illiteracy. To free our adult learners from the prison of illiteracy the provincial government has embarked on a mass campaign in basic literacy. A total of 180 000 adult learners enrolled In the 2007/08 financial year to learn to read, write and count. The campaign has recruited, trained and supported 4 000 facilitators; 300 supervisors and 240 community monitors at 4 000 learning sites throughout KwaZulu-Natal.
Not only has this campaign freed thousands of our adults from the prison of illiteracy, but it has also provided an income to more than 4 000 facilitators, supervisors and monitors. Approximately R33 million has been paid to them as stipends in the 2007/08 financial year. Our target for the 2008/09 financial year is to double the effort.
Health and welfare
In combating HIV and Aids and its devastating effects, we reaffirm our obligations that by 2010 at least 95% of young men and women have access to youth specific HIV and Aids education and services. Sexually Transmitted Disease Interventions (STI) has seen all health facilities distribute condoms freely and offer syndromic management of STIs.
Antiretroviral (ARV) treatment has progressed rapidly since its inception in March 2004. Today there are 80 accredited sites in KwaZulu-Natal that provide HIV treatment, with about 130 000 patients receiving treatment. The province has about 9 000 active home based care workers who are providing services at community level to more than 230 000 clients. A total of 92 National Integrated Pilot sites (Drop In centres) sites are now funded in the province and are jointly managed with the Department of Social Development.
Youth and 2010
The youth are among the major players in the comprehensive strategy to take maximum advantage of economic opportunities offered by SWC in areas of construction, tourism, services and hospitality industries, transport and logistics, ICT, and others. 150 000 jobs will be generated.
Seven-hundred and fifty-four (754) days separate us from the kick-off of the 2010 Fifa World Cup; very little time indeed. This means our youth should have started positioning themselves to assist our country and the continent to host one of the best Soccer World Cup tournaments ever seen. Our youth should continue engaging the various role-players on the opportunities arising from this festival of young sports people, many of whom would be coming to Africa for the first time.
A mere 754 days are left and I call on the youth of South Africa to position them to assist the country to deliver the best 2010 FIFA World Cup. You should engage various role players on opportunities arising from this 2010 world spectacle. This government is committed to the development of young people. The current generation of youth have a role and responsibility like the youth of 1976.
The struggle for a better society spans generations. Each generation faces the responsibility to carefully study its social conditions so that it can contribute to a better human condition.
Our current generation of young people owe it to history to protect and champion the ideals of social justice, an abiding culture of human rights, and a humane, just and equitable social order. The task at hand for all the youth of our country in post-apartheid South Africa, 32 years after 1976, and 14 years into our freedom, is to mobilise our collective energies to advance the transformation project of our country, and to build a united and prosperous nation.
Today is an important day to consolidate the goals of the past and plan for the future. Your aspirations are our inspiration to create the tools and conditions to create a better life for all in South Africa.
Together we will build our nation, our communities, our economy and our lives.