Young people, even when there is no help for you, there is still hope

HUNDREDS of Cape Peninsula University of Technology students this week have been sleeping in the university’s District Six campus Multipurpose Hall, as they are being processed for accommodation. Photographer: Ayanda Ndamane / Independent Newspapers

HUNDREDS of Cape Peninsula University of Technology students this week have been sleeping in the university’s District Six campus Multipurpose Hall, as they are being processed for accommodation. Photographer: Ayanda Ndamane / Independent Newspapers

Published Feb 18, 2024


The beginning of every new year marks a fresh opportunity to resolve personal strife and overcome our social plagues.

When the sun rises on New Year's Day, everyone wakes up and opens their main doors to usher in a new spirit of prosperity into their households. Most welcome this moment as a long-awaited friend, who comes from a special part of the universe, bearing a solution for all their problems.

Many young people would still be filled with this euphoria as they return to school or work despite the amount of pain and hardship experienced in the previous year(s).

The hundreds of thousands who have sat for their National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations would welcome their results with grace. Their success affirms their potential to lend a hand in the country’s quest to overcome its long-standing challenges.

However, sooner than later, many are thrust into the den of South Africa's unfortunate history where poverty, unemployment and inequality await with sharp teeth and long nails. Many land in this with no preparation and back-up whatsoever.

The reality is that many successful matriculants come from households where the only source of income is in the form of a social grant. Some have parents who are either unemployed or who are financially overstretched because whatever they earn struggles to catch up with the household's growing needs.

These households that fail to sufficiently feed, clothe and fully support the matriculant and his/her siblings throughout the year are then visited with an even harder problem of taking the successful matriculant(s) to a higher education institution.

While the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) stands ready to assist such students, for many that process begins once they enter the gates of the university, university of technology or TVET college.

Considering the fact that the country has far fewer seats than the heads that pass matric, some students secure spaces in institutions very far from home.

Imagine a student from the rural parts of the of KwaZulu-Natal, or Eastern Cape, securing a studying spot in an institution in the North West or even the Limpopo provinces. This means they have to travel hours to Gauteng before connecting with the relevant transport to that province that heralds a better future.

For many of these students, it is difficult to get a fare to get to their destination. If they do get there, some need to have money to get proper accommodation before they successfully secure student accommodation. Most of them do not have that money so they sleep in university sports centres, lecture halls or under trees on campus. In the morning, the wake up to queue to secure accommodation. This may happen for a few days.

A cousin of mine spent the past weekend in a very despondent state. Having left home earlier in the past week, she and many others had to stand in the searing heat as housing officials were bargaining for the resolution of their own issues. She only secured accommodation on Tuesday this week.

Elsewhere, another TVET college student and her sibling, told me that over the past weekend, a group of heavily armed thugs with one dressed in what looked like police uniform, came into the place they and many others rent in at night, bundled everyone (male and female) into one of the rooms, ransacked all the other rooms and made off with the poor student’s cellphones and other valuables.

Another cousin of mine, who passed matric in 2022, but failed to get tertiary admission last year, spent the whole year applying in various institutions. To her dismay, some time last month, they received an email from on institution they applied to at around 3pm informing them to come and write an entrance exam at 10am that very same day. Unbelievable I know. But true.

At the time of writing this column, the latter's own cousin, who applied last year, had an application status that said “awaiting results” towards the end of the week in which classes officially began on Monday. Should they be fortunate, they are at risk of finding the accommodation full, a situation that would result in a crisis.

I have heard that some returning students, who contended with the controversial allowance disbursements last year, are waiting to receive these a few days since returning to class. Others had to borrow money here and there to get back to school and secure accommodation. Others wait for that disbursement notification with empty stomachs. Others may be waiting at home missing the initial classes.

While these are well-known anecdotes that sadly define where a significant number of where young people find themselves in this country almost 30 years into the democratic dispensation, there is another story that is being born. And that story tells itself. We should listen to it.

That is the story of hope. While many young people are subjected to a tough livelihood, they keep on hoping. In a time when situations conspire to sink them, they miraculously emerge.

Another student who matriculated in 2021, had applied to a tertiary institution in that same year, was only admitted this year. This would have been their final year. But despite applying for 2022 and last year, challenges conspired against them and they could do nothing. They only kept hoping and only hope, paid off.

While the young generation of 1976 will always be remembered for their gallantry against the apartheid regime, today's youth should be remembered for being hopeful even when many things stand in their way as they try to claim the fruits of democracy.

Many still respect the Constitution. They hope that somehow, it will help them too. They hope, that when they no longer have the strength to fight, because disenfranchisement has dealt them too many blows over a very long time, the Constitution will fight for them and ultimately deal with those who visit injustice to them.

With less than 50 days into this new year, hope has spoken loudly as the South African men's national team, Bafana Bafana, which nobody expected much from returned home with bronze medals after coming third in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations tournament that was held in Ivory Coast.

Just last week, 22-year old South African musician Tyla bagged the first African Music Performance Grammy award. Before that, a boxer from Tembisa Jackson Chauke won vacant IBO flyweight world title. Before him, South African professional mixed martial artist Dricus du Plessis (born in 1994) who competes in the Middleweight division of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) recently became the first South African to win a UFC championship.

As I celebrated my 33rd birthday on Tuesday, it dawned on me that South Africans, especially the youth, will not allow their country to crumble under the injustices of the past combined with the modern day incompetence.

I learnt that poverty, unemployment and inequality that are exacerbated by infrastructural failures and lack of political breakthrough will not crush this country.

But the hope in the youth who refuse to allow the triple challenges to bring us down, is what will let this country rise to glory.

Young people, even when there is no help for you, there is still hope.

Given Majola is a multimedia reporter with Business Report. He is a young person and former student leader throughout his schooling career. He writes in his personal capacity.