Let’s face it, the events of 2020 have denied young people many defining moments that usually allow them to celebrate the completion of a phase in their lives, such as graduation ceremonies and matric dances.

The pandemic continues to inflict multiple disrupters on our youth. It’s not only putting pressure on them financially, but is also disrupting education and training, and has a serious impact on the mental health and well-being of our young people. South Africa’s high rates of poverty and youth unemployment often make it difficult for youngsters to pursue a meaningful future. Our unemployment rate is 34.1 % and rising. So many of our young people leave school because they can’t afford an education. And the family needs money, now. This has left them vulnerable to anti-social elements and criminal groups.

In other parts of the world young people are mostly concerned about climate change and the environment, but in South Africa, the shortage of jobs, finances, and the high crime rate take preference.

But here’s the thing, kids are not “just kids”. They are resilient, smart, curious, driven, and creative people – as much, or more so than any adult. Our young people today have unprecedented access to information - thanks to the internet - and are able to utilize this information more efficiently than even the most tech savvy adults. They are exposed to perspectives and points of views that differ from those of their parents, peers and communities and are able to engage in conversations about global matters.

Despite the challenges of 2020 our young people were inspired to unite and amplify their voices on social media to bring awareness to the need for change. There is so much hope. They are the future leaders of tomorrow; they are the parents and grandparents of generations to come. But what are we doing to prepare them?

We have to be intentional in empowering our leaders of tomorrow. Encourage them to follow their passions and never to lose hope. Show them that their opinions matter and what they have to say is important, without judging or criticizing their ideas. Engage them in decision making, and give them the responsibility and the power to better their own communities.

Invite them to launch a project and support their progress. It’s been incredible to hear about Bonteheuwel Corps (Church) youth who stepped up to help their gang-war-ravaged community. These young people fearlessly helped in food kitchens to get food to the needy. Amazing, right?

Share success stories with them and hold workshops and seminars with successful speakers to inspire them to do the same. Thembu Rasiuba (24), a young woman from one of the very poorest townships in Limpopo, became so inspired after attending a workshop from the Salvation Army that she was able to set up her own Spaza shop by buying and re-selling bread in her own community. Shaping our youth is exciting and rewarding!

There is so much to be done. Let’s take initiative to address the spiritual, social, emotional, creative and educational well-being of our young people. We need to “teach them to fish”, not just provide them with a meal.

They’re our future, let’s empower them.

Source: thenews.com.pk, thriveglobal.com, blog.nunmundo.org, salvationarmy.org.za, businesslive.co.za, dailymaverick.co.za, politicsweb.co.za, crossroadsteencentre.co.za, mrpfoundation.org, medium.com, aspeninstitute.com, huffingtonpost.com

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