We are celebrating Youth Day in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, arguably the worst health emergency of our lives. This crisis has affected and changed our lives in a manner that could not be imagined only a few months ago. It threatens to permanently change the way we live our lives and the way we work. For the youth of South Africa, this pandemic will exacerbate the existing crisis they face. However, the youth should strive to identify the opportunities and possibilities that this crisis presents.
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The pandemic has once again brought into stark contrast the inequality and injustices of the capitalist economy. For young workers, the impact of this pandemic is set to further worsen the unemployment and opportunities to better livelihoods. This pandemic however has shown us the importance of community, and the importance of public goods and public services. From access to quality and consistent health, education, electricity, and water, to the need for public parks and safe recreational spaces. This moment presents an opportunity to fight to reclaim public goods and public services for all.
The climate crisis is real. Recent climatic events in our sub-region must by now have convinced the denialists and cynics that the climate emergency is not a myth or a conspiracy theory. If not addressed now, this phenomenon threatens the ability of our planet to sustain earth’s ecosystems. Scientific projections indicate that if the rate of earth’s warming continues unchecked, the earth may become inhabitable in the next decades. So, climate change is not only a threat to the way of life but an existential threat to the future generations. The youth need to stand up and take up the fight against climate change.
The 4th Industrial Revolution is upon us. Technology is rapidly developing, and in the process, it is changing the way we live and work. Instead of mourning about how it is affecting how we organise our lives and work, we need to embrace it and adapt it. The reality is, once there are new ways of doing things, it is difficult to go backwards. The youths should therefore embrace technology and use it to their advantage in organising, mobilising and campaigning.
So, June 16 should not only a be a commemoration and celebration of the sacrifices of the brave youths of ’76 but should also be an inspiration and a call to action for the youth of this generation.
As PSI, we remain committed to an equal and just society. And we support Young Workers in struggle!
Youth Day is commemorated in South Africa to celebrate the bravery of the young students who stood up against the unjust educational policies that had been introduced by the then Apartheid Government. A peaceful protest which started in Soweto on June 16, was met with brutal and lethal force from the security forces, but this did not stop the protest from spreading to the rest of the country.
Important lessons can be drawn from these brave student activists of 1976. The first one is that they were politically conscious enough to understand that the Bantu education system that the Apartheid regime was foisting on them was structured and designed to make them second class citizens in their own country. They realised that it was their future at stake and they had to take matters in their own hands.
The odds were heavily stacked against them as they were confronted by an uncompromisingly brutal and oppressive apartheid Government, but they were not discouraged. They could have chosen to fatalistically accept their lot and conform to the system. They could have chosen to blame the circumstances. It is therefore important that today’s youth should awaken to their circumstances and understand the factors that may shape their collective future.
The second most important lesson can best be summed in a statement by Frederick Douglass in which he asserts that “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will.” The implications of such a statement is for the youth to understand that they have to take the initiatives in order to demand the kind of policies that would shape a future they want. Opportunities need to be seized or created.
There are a number of current challenges that have a bearing on the future of the youth today. The class of ’76 took it upon themselves to fight for an equal and progressive educational system. It is up to today’s youth to identify the challenge that will define their legacy. As PSI, we remain committed to an equal and just society. And we support Young Workers in struggle!