Pretoria - A Commonwealth conference on youth worker wrapped up on Thursday with the adoption of several recommendations on how to professionalise youth workers.
Dr Bernice Hlagala, director of youth development at South Africa’s Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, told Independent Media that youth workers now faced a mammoth task following the three-day meeting in Pretoria.
She said delegates would now have to ensure that legislation that focused exclusively on youth development and empowerment was adopted in their countries.
“The purpose of the conference was to discuss professionalisation of youth workers. We discussed codes of ethics, a consortium for institutions for higher learning and alliances between youth workers through associations,” said Hlagala.
But some South African delegates believed this would not be an easy task, and questioned how committed the government was committed to youth development.
Tamara Mathebula, chairwoman of the SA Youth Workers’ Association, said she was concerned by the lack of representation of South African youth organisations.
She attributed the low turn-out to what she believed was the government’s lack of consultation, and reluctance to involve local organisations in the early the planning phase of the conference.
“Government organised this among themselves and did not include civil society organisations such as non-profit organisations. Those that work in rural areas and urban areas they didn’t know about the conference, I was informed on Saturday,” said Mathebula.
She said the government needed to engage civil organisations that worked with young people.
“We feel we don’t own this thing, we will not stand by but we will engage government on how they can better host such conferences,” Mathebula said.
Sherpard Monyane, a youth development student at the University of Venda, said he expected government representatives to set actual dates on when legislation to recognise youth workers would be implemented.
“This road to recognising youth workers is slow, especially when you consider the high number of young people who need us. People always ask me what is a youth worker, that’s because we are not recognised,” said Monyane.
Deputy Minister in the Presidency, Buti Manamela, said the conference served as an opportunity for young people to have constructive discussions on issues that affected them, instead of resorting to violence.
“This opportunity allowed you to focus on developing key areas towards recognition of youth workers. Too often young people want easy solutions to problems they are confronted with, they run out of patience and get taken by some energy and want things to happen now or things will fall,” said Manamela.
“We need youth workers who are professional and qualified to try and assist young people who are in desperate need of their resources,” said Manamela.
Delegates agreed to create codes of ethics, organise into regulated youth works’ organisations, and create a global alliance organisation of youth workers.