Consider emotional and spiritual needs in youth growth
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?