On Youth Day, we grown-ups owe it to the children of South Africa – past, present and future – to take honest stock of the way this country treats young people. We need to ask ourselves if this is the best we can do, or if there are things we can do to build a better future for them.
So here are the facts.
No country for poor young people.
Nearly three million of our children experience hunger regularly, while 600 000 children experience hunger every day or almost every day. For every single one of these children, hunger is a personal disaster, stunting their joy of childhood and prospects for adulthood. For their parents, it is humiliating defeat. For our country, it is a stain on our national conscience.
This hunger crisis exploded when government glibly shut down whole industries and stole billions in Covid relief funding. But the raw deal that children get didn’t start and won’t end with the pandemic.
Schools in poor communities are so deficient that only one in five school children in South Africa leaves foundation phase able to read for meaning. Only one in three entering grade 1 will pass matric and only one in 25 will receive a post school qualification.
The single biggest reason for these bad outcomes is that the ANC puts the interests of SADTU ahead of the needs of poor schoolchildren, in return for SADTU’s political support. The “Cash-for-jobs” report compiled by Professor John Volmink in 2016 revealed that through the process of cadre deployment, SADTU has captured and corrupted six of South Africa’s nine provincial education departments.
Three out of every four young people aged 15 to 24 and over half of those aged 25 to 34 who want a job can’t find one. Poor, young people are shut out of opportunities, most living bleak existences in metros and municipalities where crumbling infrastructure and growing debt point to a future that is bleaker still.
The single biggest reason for disparities in unemployment levels between youth and other age groups is that the ANC puts the interests of unions over the needs of young people, in return for political support. By setting up artificial barriers to entry into the labour market, labour law protects the employed at the expense of new entrants and the unemployed.
Let’s face it. We grown-ups are failing our children. On empty stomachs, they must struggle through bad schools only to face a hostile labour market and a bleak future. Their fate is surely our call to action.
The DA difference.
There is one province that has their back and is working hard to build a better future for poor young people. This is the DA-run Western Cape.
During lockdown and school closures last year, the province defied a national government directive to terminate school-feeding programmes. It introduced and funded an Emergency School Nutrition Programme that delivered 1.6 million meals to school children across the province. Other provinces were eventually forced by a court order to follow suit.
The Western Cape was also the only province to continue providing a full subsidy to funded Early Childhood Development centres throughout the lockdown.
The DA gets things done to tackle hunger and poverty.
National government’s decision to close schools in response to the pandemic dealt a particularly devastating blow to children from poor families because they could not make full use of available online resources. The DA and the Western Cape government have consistently lobbied for schools to reopen based on sound scientific evidence that children are at low risk for severe Covid-19 infection and are low-risk spreaders to adults and are in fact safer at school because of safety protocols in place there.
The provincial government procured masks and sanitizer for every school in the province. It was the only province to publish details of all personal protective equipment (PPE) procurement and expenditure.
The DA gets thing done for poor young people. Efficiently and transparently.
The DA-run Western Cape government keeps more children in school (from each cohort of kids who entered grade 1 twelve years previously) till the end of matric than any other province. By law, children only have to attend school to the end of Grade 9. The province has consistently achieved retention rates (grade 10 to 12) of over 60%, which is 10 percentage points above the national average.
It also consistently achieves the top matric results in the country for each of these cohorts. Other provinces have higher drop-out rates during grades 10-12 for low-performing kids, which artificially boosts their matric results, which are generally reported only as a percentage of kids who wrote matric.
The Western Cape is the only province in South Africa to have implemented a Schools Evaluator. It is independent and properly resourced to accurately assess schools, to ensure better results at more schools in the province. Reports are published online for all to see.
The province has lead innovation in education by establishing Collaboration Schools – 15 in all so far – in which schools serving disadvantaged communities are partnered with non-profit organisations.
It leads in connectivity, having connected 85% of public schools in the province (1297 out of 1523) to broadband.
The DA is challenging in court the ANC’s policy of cadre deployment which has enabled capture and corruption of much of SA’s education system by SADTU.
The DA gets things done for school children.
And finally, when Western Cape youth seek out jobs, they have a better chance of finding one. Unemployment in the province is 17.5 percentage points lower than the average for the other eight provinces. This is because DA governments work hard to create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive.
The DA gets things done for young jobseekers.
Their fate our call to action.
What can you do to help build a better future for South Africa’s children? There are so many ways that people can make a difference. I’d argue that the most powerful you can take is to vote DA in the upcoming local government election on 27 October 2021. Because unlike the ANC, the DA gets things done for young people.