It was a day filled with fun activities at the Salesian Institute Youth Project in Green Point as young people gathered at the institute’s main hall for the Youth Day celebrations on Friday June 15.
Youth Day is marked annually on June 16 in South Africa and commemorates the day in 1976 that hundreds of young people were gunned down by police as they took to the streets of Soweto in protest against Afrikaans being implemented as the medium of instruction in schools.
At last week’s event, young people from all over Cape Town did not only commemorate the lives of the youth of 1976, but they also discussed the issues faced by young people today.
The CEO of Salesian Institute, Hilton Nyirenda, divided the youth into different groups, with each group being tasked with coming up with ideas on how they were planning to take South Africa forward.
Mr Nyirenda told them that he had been around during 1976 when the youth were brave enough to fight the issues that they were facing at the time.
Now, he said, it was time for the youth of today to do the same, not only for themselves but for future generations as well.
He told them that it was time they created their own history through actions and not just words and empty promises.
The issue of unemployment was at the centre of discussion with young people highlighting the education system in this country as the root of the problem. They said even with qualifications they found themselves struggling to get jobs, which resulted in high rates of youth unemployment.
“Doors of education are opened today with some getting free education but we’re still facing unemployment with our qualifications,” said Lwazi Mashiya.
One student argued that the education system in South Africa didn’t teach students to be entrepreneurs or create jobs, but rather to be employees and depend on big companies for salaries for the rest of their lives.
A group comprising only of young women raised the issues of the impact of patriarchy, inequality, mental health-awareness, rape, abuse and femicide faced on young South African women.
They said they were tired of being oppressed as women and being treated like second class citizens in the country.
Young foreign nationals from across Africa shared their lived experiences and the reasons they found themselves in foreign countries such as South Africa.
A young person from Congo said nepotism and corruption were key challenges facing African countries and called on South Africans to value their freedom.
Mr Nyirenda said the mission of the institute was to serve youth at risk regardless of religion, race, gender or nationality.
The institute gives them the skills they need to stay out of danger, find good jobs through their programmes with a custom-tailored mix of basic education, vocational training, social skills, and neighbourhood outreach.
He said he wanted to create active South African citizens determined to make the change that they want to see in the country.