Last month the South African Youth Council organised a march to the Western Cape Provincial Legislature to demand jobs for young people and to challenge the proposed closure of 27 schools in the province.
Benjamin Zantsi of the IJR followed up with Andile Ndlevu, Provincial Secretary of the South African Youth Council.
BZ: What is the role of the South African Youth Council?
AN: The South African Youth Council (SAYC) is an umbrella body of all youth formations across the country. Our role is to lobby and advocate for youth issues. We represent all youth formations in civil society irrespective of their political affiliation.
BZ: What was the purpose of the march that you organised last month?
AN: The march was in response to the high rate of unemployment in the country, particularly among young people. After we had engaged with all youth formations, the SAYC was not impressed by the manner in which the Provincial Government is moving in terms of addressing youth unemployment.
The second issue was of course the proposed closure of the 27 schools in the province.
The third issue relates to the lack a youth policy which will guide youth development in the province.
We have been waiting for some time for the Provincial Government to address these issues. That hasn’t yet happened. So we took an initiative as SAYC to be on the streets and raise our views publicly to the government. We were disappointed that the Premier could not be there to accept the memorandum. We will go back as the SAYC and submit our memorandum to the office of the Premier directly.
BZ : Surely youth unemployment is a national crisis and not unique to the Western Cape. Questions may be raised about the appropriateness and relevance of addressing your concerns to the Provincial Legislature instead of National Legislature?
AN: We are a provincial structure and since we are in the Western Cape, we believe our issues can be best addressed by the Provincial Government. Yes unemployment is a national crisis but we pay tax in the Western Cape.
We are not saying that the Provincial Government must take all the responsibility, but also the private sector as well. You have your Cape Chamber of Commerce and the business community at large and we have also engaged them to take the issue forward. So we’re not necessarily targeting the Provincial Government, but all the role players in our society.
BZ: Some people may also question the SAYC’s political motives considering that the DA lead government of the Western Cape is the first to publicly support and campaign for the youth wage subsidy and as it claims has implemented various youth employment schemes. How do you respond to that?
AN: We must state clear that we as the SAYC seat in the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) where the youth wage subsidy has been addressed and together with COSATU we opposed the youth wage subsidy. We don’t think the youth wage subsidy is a panacea to youth unemployment.
In our view the youth wage subsidy has the potential to promote and encourage young people to drop-out of school. Any investment in youth should focus on education and support young people to stay in school and pursue further studies. The youth wage subsidy does not address the issue of skills in our country; youth must be equipped with skills training to get a decent job.
The alternative for us is for government to redirect the funds to skills training through learnerships so that young people are equipped with the right skills to access decent jobs.
BZ: One of the other key issues in your memorandum had to do with the proposed closure of 27 schools in the Western Cape. What are the views of the SAYC on this?
AN: In our research we found that each of these schools have their own unique set of challenges, and the stance taken by the Provincial Government to take one approach which is the proposed closure of these schools is not correct. We are saying that there must be engagement with all stakeholders, starting from the learner, to parents, and teachers at large.
BZ: So what are the alternatives?
AN: Some of the critical issues with these schools relate to resources and people moving from rural areas to urban areas where there is more access to resources.
Some of these schools can be merged with schools that are better resourced. The proposed closure of schools needs to seriously consider implications for teachers in terms of their job security and if learners are going to be required to travel longer distances, transport must be available.
BZ: Lastly would you say that the march achieve its objectives?
AN: The march received very good coverage, we were very happy with the outcomes. We also realise that we need to explore other avenues to engage Provincial Government.
Look out for the upcoming report of our conference on Economic Justice for the Next Generation in which leading policy experts, academics, youth political leaders, and business leaders provide insightful analysis of youth unemployment and discuss possible alternatives and interventions.