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#Wehateyouth gets them talking

- Kemantha Govender

The realities of today’s youth were at the centre of the second Wits School of Governance and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung SA roundtable in the 2018 series.

The roundtable focused on exploring social transformation and the social contract in South Africa. Youth from around Gauteng attended the session and discussed everything from free education, being misunderstood and excluded, job creation to the challenges they encounter on a daily basis.

Peace Tladi, one of the participants, said the gathering was characterised by realities rather than emotions.

“There was a high level of cooperation between young and older people and people from different races which in some instances might be difficult to achieve,” said Tladi.

WSG Head of School, Professor David Everatt, wrote the concept paper for the discussion which provided a strong foundation for debate as the day progressed.

“Youth suffer higher unemployment, they carry the burden of pandemics such as HIV and AIDS, are denied credit because of perceived riskiness, are least likely to access formal sector employment and decent work, are more likely to be exposed to and suffer from violence, to be conscripted into war or dragooned into informal conflict, to be trafficked, and ultimately to be commodified, bought, sold and objectified. All of this occurs as leaders promise that youth are the leaders of tomorrow,” wrote Everatt.

Tladi said the platform gave youth an opportunity to challenge and engage Everatt on his position paper and recognised that this was a privilege because youth issues are not limited to students. The hashtag #wehateyouth was generated from Everatt's provocative paper.

“There are many young people who are not at tertiary institutions or those who do not want to go to them that are left behind because most of these gatherings focus on things like free higher education. We have graduates who are sitting at home with their qualifications.

“For me the issue here is youth unemployment and young people should shift their focus from free higher education to job creation,” said Tladi.

Everatt said that young people are often an active part of very successful social, health, economic and political movements but more needs to be done to organise around the needs of the “youth sector”.

“They either focus on specific sectoral needs – such as a free quality decolonial education, or free anti-retroviral treatment, often with remarkable success. But youth leaders soon age, and become absorbed by political parties or trade unions and others, the youth sector is continually repopulated, and youth-wide issues remain unaddressed,”

“Youth culture confirms adult fears. Youth look and sound different; they dress and speak differently – if one takes adulthood to be the norm and youth to deviate therefrom. Youth have their own music, their own technology, their own body art and their own issues and concerns. Youth do not want to be the kind of adults they see around them,” wrote Everatt.

Bambi Dibu, a 19-year-old from the University of Johannesburg, who had the room erupt in laughter because she started her commentary with “you guys” to confirm Everatt’s point about youth having their own language, said even if youth were given a seat at the table,  their voices remain unheard.

“The youth are different. There's no doubt about that, but with all the problems and norms that the older generation have forced onto us, means we do need to be different from what has always been regarded as the norm.

“My burning issue really is that we are being labelled with so much negativity before being given a chance to prove ourselves,” added Dibu.

Sithembile Mbete, a lecturer from the University of Pretoria, moderated the discussion. Other panellists included Fasiha Hassan (Deputy Secretary-General, SA Union of Students), Kgotsi Chikane (Strategist, Vanity Consulting and MegaTech AI), Linda Vilakazi (Former CEO Oliver & Adelaide Tambo Foundation) and Sibulele Sibaca (Founder, Sibulele Sibaca Foundation).