The commemoration of Youth Day is a fitting time to consider not only what happened on 16 June 1976,
but the world that today’s youths are inheriting in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
The coronavirus is going to have a long-term impact on the young people of today. It has not only
caused millions of additional job losses, but by disrupting education it has reduced the opportunities for
young people to gain the qualifications that might lead to a job in what has become a smaller market.
In June 1976 young people rose up against apartheid oppression, and their uprising helped end
apartheid and propel the country towards democracy. Now a new generation is about to come of age in
a world changed completely by Covid-19.
The economic impact of the pandemic has been particularly harsh on our youth. Before the pandemic,
their future was already bleak, with South Africa’s youth unemployment at a record high. Now it is
worse. As the pandemic closed shops, factories and other places of employment, millions more were
out of work. Only some of those jobs have opened up again as the economy shows its first signs of
Again, young people have been particularly affected, and the latest figures from StatsSA show that
nearly half of those between 15 and 34 are out of work. The official youth unemployment rate is 46.3%,
and for those without matric it is 52.4%.
Education – a key grievance in 1976 – has been severely disrupted. Nearly a year’s schooling has been
lost through closures or alternate-day education. Universities and other tertiary institutions are only
partially open, and distance learning is not an option for everyone. Travel and study at all levels are
further impacted by electricity outages.
It’s not a problem that will be solved quickly or easily, but Siyabuya believes every South African can
contribute to economic recovery and job creation.
Siyabuya aims to build a network of those who believe South Africa can emerge better from the
pandemic. All over the country, people are acting on that belief and those examples can inspire others.
Siyabuya encourages South Africans to look after themselves and to help others, including by creating
employment wherever they can. Wear a mask, sanitise and stay socially distanced. Get vaccinated as
soon as you are eligible, and encourage others to do so. Feed people who are hungry and create jobs
Youth Day is about our past, and about our future,” said Melene Rossouw, the external lead of the
The future is in our hands, and it is up to every one of us to do everything we can to rebuild our country. The only real cure for unemployment is economic growth. The crisis that faces today’s youth must spur all of us to engage in active citizenry, in our families and communities, to help make this happen.