Jobless youth ‘trapped in poverty’

Published Nov 10, 2015


Sandiso Phaliso

YOUTH unemployment has increased from 33 percent in 2008 to 37 percent this year, according the South African Child Gauge 2015, which was released yesterday.

The report was compiled and edited by Ariane de Lannoy, Sharlene Swartz, Lori Lake and Charmaine Smith.

According to the report, 59 percent of youth aged between 15 and 24 live in homes where the average income works out to R620 per person per month, and many of them experience limited access to quality education, healthcare an housing.

Only eight percent of youth attend college or university. Notwithstanding the ongoing evaluation of fees, first-year university tuition can be as high as R65 000 per year, and dropout rates remain worrying.

“Right now, the majority of young people remain trapped in the continuing inequalities created by apartheid.

“This vicious cycle will continue to the next generation of children if we don’t invest in youth today,” said Murray Leibbrandt, UCT’s vice chancellor for poverty and inequality.

The publication spells out the link between quality education and entrance to the labour market.

“Without access to quality education, which remains a challenge for the majority, the public school system in essence becomes a poverty trap because poor youth start with a disadvantage, remain behind and are unlikely to proceed to further education.

“This situation undermines young people’s employment chances, earning potential and self-concept,” explains Nic Spaull, from the research on socio-economic policy unit at Stellenbosch University.

He said the quality of education must be improved, starting in the foundation phase; current learning deficits in high school need to be tackled and dropout rates reduced through comprehensive support to pupils and their families.

De Lannoy said: “But the impact of poverty on people’s emotional well-being is currently not sufficiently understood or addressed, and mental health services are poorly resourced.”

Catherine Ward, from UCT’s department of psychology, said the majority of children lived in rural areas, but many move away in their late teens and early 20s to seek better education and income-generating opportunities.

She said they may face an uncertain existence in informal settlements on the outskirts of cities.

“For these reasons, city planners need to consider the needs of youth by making available affordable transport, housing and safe recreational spaces.

“Improved digital access can also go a long way to help young people gain access to information, education or job opportunities.

“Such resources, opportunities and other support measures can help enhance youth engagement and belonging,” Ward said.

The publication noted financial aid, accommodation, transport, study support, psycho-social and healthcare services are essential, as is a welcoming institutional culture enabling students to stay the course until they graduate.

Access to information on further education and career options, as well as financial support, is critical to enable young people to access further and higher education.

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