What are the strug­gles youth face?

3 dif­fer­ent young peo­ple an­swer

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - NOKUTHULA ZWANE

FORTY-ONE years af­ter the June 16 Soweto Youth Up­ris­ing, young peo­ple have their own strug­gles.

The Soweto Up­ris­ing was a se­ries of protests led by school­child­ren in the town­ship in de­fi­ance of us­ing Afrikaans as a medium of in­struc­tion. A num­ber of them were killed, in­jured or im­pris­oned in the process. The day is com­mem­o­rated as Youth Day.

The Star in­ter­viewed three young peo­ple – Swankie Mafoko, Obak­eng Mu­laudzi and Pa­trick Buck­land – all from dif­fer­ent back­grounds, to dis­cuss their strug­gles and whether the 1976 Up­ris­ing was im­por­tant to them.

Mafoko, 23, an ac­tress on SABC2’s Keep­ing Score said for her, the word “strug­gle” was the in­abil­ity to be who she was and wanted to be.

“It’s en­coun­ter­ing ob­sta­cles that hin­der me to be who I am meant to be.”

Fi­nan­cial free­dom posed an­other chal­lenged.

“My per­sonal strug­gle is fi­nan­cial free­dom.

“I have these qual­i­fi­ca­tions. I have an ed­u­ca­tion. I am an ‘in­tel­lec­tual’ but I have no fi­nan­cial free­dom. I am in ei­ther in debt be­cause of the NSFAS (Na­tional Stu­dent Fi­nan­cial Aid Scheme) or be­cause of black tax (a fi­nan­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity to­wards fam­ily). As the youth, we strug­gle with ac­cess to free qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion.”

Mafoko said an­other strug­gle be­ing ig­nored was that about black his­tory.

“We don’t un­der­stand our­selves through his­tory. There are a lot of gaps.”

She said she would be work­ing to­mor­row.

Obak­eng Mu­laudzi, 23, is a stu­dent and Wits Stu­dent Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Coun­cil projects and cam­paigns of­fi­cer.

For him, the word “strug­gle” meant the fi­nan­cial and po­lit­i­cal dif­fi­cul­ties he was fac­ing. On the lighter side, there was his strug­gle to sleep.

Be­ing a black, ho­mo­sex­ual man brought up its own is­sues.

“Not only am I judged for not be­ing straight, but I am suf­fer­ing for be­ing black. Peo­ple call me names, telling me how weak I am or that I am not man enough. It’s a con­stant strug­gle to teach peo­ple that even though I’m not what so­ci­ety be­lieves a man to be, I am still a man.

“So­ci­ety puts us in a box. We are faced with the strug­gle of try­ing to change the norm of what so­ci­ety be­lieves.”

Mu­laudzi didn’t be­lieve in cel­e­brat­ing Youth Day be­cause “the youth aren’t taken se­ri­ously”. “The youth of 1976 did a great job and they fought a great fight but we, as the youth to­day, are still faced with some of the same things they fought for. “

Pa­trick Buck­land, 27, is a school teacher and soc­cer coach.

He said youth were strug­gling to have an in­flu­ence on so­ci­ety, find a pur­pose or con­trib­ute. “Be­ing young, we are al­most un­der­mined and we are not val­ued. Our voices aren’t heard.”

Buck­land found the youth strug­gled to ex­press them­selves as freely as they would like.

“We have a sen­si­tive past and have to be care­ful and con­ser­va­tive in what we say and do.”

Many of his var­sity friends didn’t grow up with the priv­i­leges he had and that was an­other rea­son he felt a need to watch what he said. “They will judge me based on the fact that they con­sider me to have priv­i­lege. It some­times holds me back.”

Buck­land be­lieved Youth Day pro­vides a plat­form for young peo­ple to voice their opin­ions and prove they, too, could serve a pur­pose.

Buck­land is due to spent the day with his soc­cer club which is host­ing a Youth Day soc­cer tour­na­ment. @Zwane_2li2ls

STEREOTYPING: As a gay man, Obak­eng Mu­laudzi is a Wits Stu­dent Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Coun­cil leader, and is hav­ing a hard time try­ing to teach so­ci­ety not to put peo­ple in a box.

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