Every June, we celebrate Youth Month in remembrance of the selfless and heroic acts of the youth of 1976, who took a stand against the inferior education imposed on them by the oppressive apartheid government.
However, it is important to also look at the young people of today and amplify their voices on the troubles that affect them.
Among high crime rates and an embattled economy, there is the enormous issue of youth unemployment. According to Statistics South Africa (StatsSA), there are 4.9 million unemployed young people in the nation.
Nonhle Mzizi, a 29-year-old from Amanzimtoti, KwaZulu-Natal, is one of the millions of young people who have been struggling to secure employment. She says she has spent over three years searching for a job, seemingly to no avail.
She holds a diploma in information technology from a registered private tertiary institution located in Durban.
Despite having this higher education, Mzizi has been struggling to get a job or even proceed to the interview process when applying.
“Not having a job and not being able to earn money is the first thought that comes to me when I wake up in the mornings and close my eyes at night,” she says.
“When I was a child, I believed that at this age, I would have a permanent job, car and a place of my own. Instead, life took me on this path that fills me with despair every day.”
Mzizi lives with her parents, two siblings and a niece. She describes that she is the only one in the family who does not have employment, a fact that has led to her feeling ashamed and declining mental health.
“My family might not say it, but I sometimes think they see me as a failure and perhaps a burden as well. However, they are my support system and they offer words of encouragement, but I see my peers who have succeeded in life and can’t help but compare myself to them.’’
Msizi says she has, in probability, applied to hundreds of jobs over the years. Constantly being on the lookout for work and applying becomes a job itself, says the graduate.
She relies on her family to buy data for her to browse online, which she admits is expensive and makes her feel guilty.
She points to several factors that may be the cause of her not getting a job: elitism, not being on the same playing field as those with degrees from public universities, government incompetence and a disregard for the youth of South Africa.
“The government doesn’t care as long as they fatten their own pockets and place their relatives in unearned positions while leaving the rest of us to wallow in this bottomless pit,” a teary-eyed Mzizi says.
It is hard to be optimistic for the future, according to the young woman, as she says things are getting worse. In January of this year, she was diagnosed with depression.
Her parents were not able to pay for medication and therapy sessions.
“I don’t think the effects of unemployment are being taken seriously. We are an entire generation who have been stripped of hope and I think that is a very dangerous thing for the future of SA.”
*Not her real name. Changed for privacy.
*If you are in need of help or know someone who is, please contact Sadag’s toll free call centre on 0800 567 567.