The Panel Discussion – Youth Empowerment
Bringing young people on board is important
In a country marred by youth unemployment, the Youth Empowerment panel discussion hosted by the University of Johannesburg (UJ) last month gave the university’s alumni a chance to connect robustly by sharing various issues affecting the youth.
Facilitated by Deputy President of the UJ Convocation Zanele Modiba, the discussion kicked off with an address from the President of the Convocation, Professor Boitumelo Diale, who spoke about the role of the Convocation as well as some of the important projects run by the university. The discussion comprised Executive Deputy Chairperson of the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) Karabo Mohale, a member of UJ Convocation Exco, Nondumiso Mvubu, President of the UJ SRC,
Mxolisi Manana, and founder of Taste of Legends and One Day Leader finalist, Bongekile Radebe.
Prof Diale said this is not the end of the journey, but it continues. Giving a warm welcome to the 2022 graduates who were part of the past two graduation ceremonies held at the university’s esteemed Soweto campus, she said she looks forward to having them being active members of their alumni.
Executive Deputy Chairperson of the NYDA Karabo Mohale delved into socio-economic development for the youth. Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) recently released the results of unemployment amongst young people. Young people in the country aged between 15 and 34 are the absolute majority. Over 60% of the 20.8 million youth in the country are unemployed, she said.
Mohale stressed that they need to look at how they can build a cohort of young people who are entrepreneurs and are entrepreneurially-minded so that they can be able to not only look at the system and think, ‘how can I get a job?’ but to say, ‘how can we become job creators ourselves and open up space for more young people?’
She encourages young people to visit the NYDA website (www.nyda.gov.za) as there are a number of programmes that the agency has undertaken to support entrepreneurial young people.
Also on the panel was a member of UJ Convocation Exco, Nondumiso Mvubu, who gave an insight on the political landscape of the youth. “The request of youth inclusion in political affairs has continued to shape the country’s political landscape. Political participation by the youth, access to opportunities for socio-economic development remains an important call in Africa as young people have been acknowledged for their creative skills and pioneering ideas,” she said.
Current UJ SRC President Mxolisi Manana weighed in on the complexities of access to the higher education sector and educational opportunities. He said there are six indicators that the QS World University rankings take into account when they rank these universities, “one of them being the international student ratio and the international faculty ratio, which looks at attracting students from an international perspective. Not just students but also employees. It looks at attracting professors from across the world,” he noted. He spoke largely about the challenges to access faced by many who live in remote areas in the country. “When you have all these other people from the world who want to come to UJ, what then happens to the child who is in Dzingidzingi, a village in Limpopo, trying to access the same space and environment?” He said these world rankings speak to a complexity and it raises the bar insofar as accessing institutions of higher learning. “Issues of infrastructure are a hurdle to potential students in areas such as Dzingidzingi. How much more difficult is it for them to apply, to access the internet to be on the university’s website? Such a person is limited to the Post Office and making a manual application where you post all supporting documents and application to the university. There is a commodity that is imposed to access institutions of higher learning.”
Democratising the system is something of vital change to Manana. He said standardising the Admission Point Score (APS) system in universities is important. “It remains a barrier and we speak robustly to that. Why is it that if you one wants to study an LLB (Bachelor of Laws) at the University of Pretoria or the University of the Witwatersrand you are required to get 42 APS points, but when you want to study the same qualification at UJ you are required to get approximately 32 APS points, yet you are going to study the same jurisprudence and when you graduate, you are going to compete in the same courtroom? We are saying the government must come with a standardised APS system that applies to all institutions across the board. It is unjust and needs to be changed,” he concluded.
The engaging discussion came to a close with questions being opened to the floor where the audience could engage the panel through a Q and A session at the end.