Con­sider emo­tional and spir­i­tual needs in youth growth

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

Gov­ern­ment pol­icy on youth de­vel­op­ment needs to be more far­reach­ing to form a suc­cess­ful na­tion

IT IS the month of June, dubbed Youth Month, and South Africans are once again soaked in rhetoric about the state of young peo­ple and their faith. Words be­ing thrown around across the po­lit­i­cal divide in­clude youth un­em­ploy­ment, skills de­vel­op­ment, 1976, op­por­tu­ni­ties and the National De­vel­op­ment Plan, to men­tion but a few.

Gov­ern­ment’s so­lu­tion to South Africa’s youth de­vel­op­ment predica­ments es­sen­tially frames the bound­aries around the type of dis­course that’s likely to be heard – re­gard­less if it’s from sup­port­ing or opposing ends. In short, gov­ern­ment’s ob­jec­tive is for a young per­son to ei­ther be study­ing, em­ployed or en­tre­pre­neur­ial. No youth should be loi­ter­ing around and thereby have trou­ble­some idle minds and hands.

Re­gret­tably, the most crit­i­cal ques­tion that’s un­likely to be thor­oughly in­ter­ro­gated is what is needed to sup­port the growth of our youth into com­plete per­sons.

Most im­por­tantly, in an at­tempt to make these “com­plete per­sons”, how do we in­fuse African val­ues such as Ubuntu into the ori­en­ta­tion of such a be­ing?

This ap­proach does not dis­agree with gov­ern­ment’s three-point so­lu­tion to youth de­vel­op­ment. In­stead, it says one’s pri­mary con­cern must be the type of per­son pro­duced through study, em­ploy­ment and en­trepreneur­ship. This fun­da­men­tal ques­tion should be re­solved up­front be­fore the de­tails of study­ing, em­ploy­ment or en­trepreneur­ship are dealt with.

Four key el­e­ments help form the type of per­son one is likely to be­come. These are phys­i­cal or per­sonal, so­cial, emo­tional and spir­i­tual needs and char­ac­ter­is­tics.

South African pol­icy and over­all ori­en­ta­tion to youth de­vel­op­ment tends to im­ply or sim­ply out­right ig­nore the emo­tional and spir­i­tual di­men­sion, while­largely ad­vo­cat­ing for so­cial and phys­i­cal el­e­ments.

The National Youth Poli­cies of 2009 to 2014, as well as 2015 to 2020 are among a num­ber of cases in point. Both ar­gue that South Africa’s youth de­vel­op­ment “is based on the prin­ci­ples of so­cial and eco­nomic jus­tice, hu­man rights, em­pow­er­ment, par­tic­i­pa­tion, ac­tive cit­i­zen­ship, the pro­mo­tion of pub­lic ben­e­fit, and dis­tribu­tive and lib­eral val­ues.” Ex­plain­ing its ra­tio­nale, the poli­cies state that “youth-tar­geted in­ter­ven­tions are needed to en­able young South Africans to ac­tively par­tic­i­pate and en­gage in so­ci­ety and the econ­omy”.

The March 2014 Pres­i­den­tial Ind­aba on Youth Jobs and Skills Com­mis­sions Re­port and its dec­la­ra­tion con­tin­ues this ten­dency of ig­nor­ing young peo­ple’s emo­tional and spir­i­tual needs. The re­port fo­cuses on six ar­eas – ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing, work ex­po­sure, pub­lic sec­tor mea­sures, youth en­ter­prises and co­op­er­a­tives, youth set asides and pri­vate sec­tor mea­sures.

De­tails are pri­mar­ily con­cerned with hard skills. Lit­tle, if any, at­ten­tion is paid to a com­plete pic­ture of the type of young per­son South Africa should aim to mould as it fa­cil­i­tates youth eman­ci­pa­tion.

Are we not at the point where we should ask if our ap­proach to youth de­vel­op­ment could be do­ing an un­in­tended dis­ser­vice to our so­ci­etal needs? Should we be sur­prised at in­creas­ing re­ports about young peo­ple who do not re­spect them­selves, their teach­ers, el­ders and com­mu­ni­ties?

The 2005 Hu­man Sci­ences Re­search Coun­cil’s re­port, ti­tled “Young Peo­ple in South Africa in 2005: Where We’re At and Where We’re Go­ing” also tells us that we are los­ing the bat­tle when it comes to sup­port­ing young peo­ple’s so­cial needs. It ar­gues that civic en­gage­ment and so­cial par­tic­i­pa­tion are cited as key as­pects to young peo­ple’s de­vel­op­ment in so­ci­ety. Within this frame­work it states that 75,3% of youth have never par­tic­i­pated in a so­ci­ety or club, while 80,1% have never been part of a civic or­gan­i­sa­tion or struc­ture.

A so­lu­tion could be a con­cept used in sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment dis­course termed “re­spon­si­ble con­sump­tion habits”. A sim­plis­tic def­i­ni­tion of re­spon­si­ble con­sump­tion habits is the ten­dency of tak­ing just enough of what life of­fers. It high­lights re­spect as a way of life in how one re­lates to one­self, those around one and one’s en­vi­ron­ment in its phys­i­cal and meta­phys­i­cal forms. It is time we con­sciously and de­ci­sively in­fuse prin­ci­ples of re­spon­si­ble con­sump­tion habits in our ap­proach to South African youth de­vel­op­ment. In this way we could be bet­ter as­sured of a sus­tain­able eco­nomic and so­cial trans­for­ma­tion and growth agenda, due to the type of per­son that is pro­duced.

In the past 23 years, we re­flected more on phys­i­cal and so­cial char­ac­ter­is­tics that mo­ti­vated the youth of the 1976 and 1980s eras. But is it not their emo­tional and spir­i­tual na­tures that best de­scribed the type of peo­ple they were? Isn’t this what drove them in their de­ter­mi­na­tion to top­ple the evil sys­tem of apartheid?

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