As the country twists and turns from one outrage to another, we are missing the vital importance of ideas that will take our country forward – especially our education system.
South Africans love to bitch and moan. We love to throw our hands up in the air in exasperation. More so online. South African social media is packed with these digital crusaders keen on condemning all that irks them.
Tweets by the thousands, denunciations by the dozen and outrage en masse. Sometimes reasonable, sometimes not. The thing about it all is that we bounce to the next thing as quickly as the last crisis came around. We love nothing more than a social media witch hunt.
Although this is to be expected as South Africa enters silly season with local government elections approaching in August. It once again proves that South Africans aren’t able to articulate what the country’s biggest crisis really is, or how to fix it.
A story broke in late April that we believe to be the most worthy of all this indignation that has come before us in the past fortnight or so. It should have seen thousands taking to the streets as part of mass demonstrations.
It should have the whole of South Africa demanding an immediate response from the people charged with leading our nation. It should have had a #Tag. It should have, but it didn’t.
Statistician-general Pali Lehohla released the “social profile of youth” report on April 18th.
It makes for very dismal reading:
Youth unemployment is growing, and the education system is producing people who are unable to find jobs.
It now stands at 35,9% – up from 34,2% in 2009. And while education should be a tool to fight this scourge, 57% of those that are unemployed have never even graduated high school.
It gets worse.
The employment and education patterns post 1994 have not changed that much either for young black South Africans; with the proportion of black youth in skilled jobs remaining stagnant over the past 20 years.
Yet the education rates are not actually the problem. The amount of people entering the education system has increased. But the outcomes have sadly not followed this upward trend.
Far more black students are enrolling into university since 1994, but completion rate is less than it was prior to democracy.
The report’s findings led our mild mannered mathematician-in-chief Lehohla to make this startling observation when releasing the report:
“When parents are better equipped than the children, it’s a sign of regression”
Young black professionals in employment (work that requires skills and therefore an education) has declined. Less than 20% of black youth aged 25-34 are in a skilled occupation.
What we are seeing is a situation in our country where receiving an education and finding a job are becoming disconnected. Leholhla summed it up:
“The parents are better equipped than their children. And when this happens, you don’t have a future“
Why should we care about the youth, you ask?
Because they are the country’s majority – South Africa’s population is largely made up of young people. Those who are below the age of 35 years constitute about 66% per cent of the total number of people in the country.
So what does all this talk of a rainbow nation and great strides actually mean if we don’t have a future?
This report is telling us that our country is offering us no solace from the past; rather only the promise of a bleaker future than our parents. Offering the majority of South African’s little or no tools to move forward.
We are seeing South Africa’s youth backsliding. We’re heading for disaster, and we’re allowing the rhetoric in our country to be focused on over-emotional waitresses.
It’s easy to rage. We do it everyday. From the idiot who cut us off in traffic, to the faceless bureaucrat that didn’t fix the pothole. We hate on our political system. We loathe our social order. Our world is surrounded by things that annoy us. But it is what we choose to revolt against, and how we revolt, that actually makes the difference.
To fix an education system that is creating masses of unemployed, bitter and opportunity bereft youths is no easy task. And we’ll need to move our gazes up and away from rage our laptops and fury on our smart phones. It means more than just an angry tweet or update.
It means doing more than just shaking our heads and rolling our eyes.
It means real action. Something tangible. And that starts with speaking about it. Not just letting it get lost in the morass of outrage and the exasperation our country leaps into every couple of days.
We need to start figuring out what we, as ordinary South Africans are going to do about it. How we are going to start contributing in a real way. In a way that has more impact than a social media rant.
So let’s start the conversation:
Let’s do it together.
We’ve proven to the world that when it comes down to it, there are no better people on the planet than South Africans to pull together when our country needs us to.
We need to do it again, and we need to start doing it now.