June 16 is the centrepiece of Youth Month in South Africa. On this day, we commemorate the sacrifices made by youth defiantly standing up to the Apartheid regime in the 1976 Soweto Uprising. Hundreds of young people were killed when they protested against the attempt to impose Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in secondary schools—a measure both exclusionary and a violation of their fundamental right to quality education in a language accessible to them.
Today’s youth enjoy the fruits of the hard-fought freedom that those courageous students in 1976 fought for. But nowadays many of youth in our country face other challenges, including, but not in any way limited to, unemployment and exclusion from the mainstream economy. Ironically, part of the reason is the less than optimal education system itself, which, despite gains made since 1994, has inadequately prepared youth for the realities of the 21st century economy. In support of the National Development Plan’s commitment toward inclusive economic growth, one of MIET Africa’s key focus areas has been Youth Development, with programmes that foster the development of the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes required for youth to lead productive lives, make informed decisions and assume responsible roles in society.