Every 16 June, South Africans across the country share in the celebration of Youth Day. This national holiday is for remembrance of the thousands of youths, who on 16 June 1976, risked their lives in protest against the oppression of apartheid and Bantu Education. Unfortunately, what started as a peaceful protest ended in teargas, bullets and death, and is infamously known as the Soweto Uprising. The number of people who died is usually given as 176, with estimates of up to 700.
Today, 38 years after the tragedy and chaos that ensued that day in Soweto, the rainbow nation once plagued with racial inequalities has picked up the pieces and moved on to a brighter future… Or has it? While those who witnessed the atrocities first hand back in 1976 may be a little more grateful toward the current state of education in South Africa, it is always interesting to reflect on what the youth of the country feel about a public holiday, which in essence, is dedicated to them.
A specific group of youth with much attention in particular is known as the “born free” generation. The born free generation describes all the youth born after South Africans began our democratic journey together as a nation in 1994, the term reflecting their freedom from racial prejudice and apartheid. These youth came of age in 2012, and voted for the first time on 7 May 2014, in South Africa’s fifth election since the end of apartheid.
While much has changed and improved since the fall of apartheid, many say South Africa’s economic injustices are harsher and more visible than ever. The recent “Big Debate on Racism” includes some very poignant discussions regarding South Africa’s multinational identity (or lack thereof) and major issues, specifically regarding financial inequity and the inherent racism still present in South Africa. Has the Rainbow Nation project failed in South Africa? Watch the episode below and decide for yourself.
So what are the born free generation inheriting? While they should have a great chance of success in the new South Africa, youth are faced with a new set of challenges – primarily related to the quality of education and lack of employment – as the Mail & Guardian reported in the 2012 Youth Day article, Born Free and Disillusioned.
Things like tertiary education and employment opportunities are the main issues on the lips of the youth in South Africa, a far cry from racial segregation and fatal protests, but an issue that is extremely relevant in today’s society. Charlenie Govender complained to the Mail & Guardian that “the standard of education has dropped drastically with many of us being ill-equipped for the working world”.
There are many problems inherited from the days of apartheid, social issues such as South Africa’s HIV prevalence, gang wars and drug-related crimes on the rise. Shockingly, the Western Cape also has the highest rate of foetal alcohol syndrome in the world. The legacy of apartheid has unfortunately followed South Africa in the 21st century, through the inherent inequality and poverty that divides the country’s diverse communities.
If you are interested in working in the fields of youth development or disability (including foetal alcohol syndrome), get in touch with the internship placement service of Creative Consulting & Development Works, if i could…. We work with a number of organisations in the Western Cape who are uplifting youth, as well as supporting at-risk youth and children with disabilities.
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