1 November 2018 - Jimmy Ramokgopa
We are the generation whom a lot has been promised to. We are the generation that was told by everyone that engineers, accountants and the likes were in high demand and that if we ventured into those careers, jobs and money would be in abundance! What a scam! The sight of graduates standing at street corners, begging for jobs, has become normalised. The countless doors that the “key of education” has failed to unlock has left many of us questioning the legitimacy of our academic success and the prospects of the future.
Born in the 90’s, at the brink of independence, with seemingly infinite possibilities in sight, the future had never looked any brighter for black South Africans. In comparison to the generation that came before us, we had, and still have, access to more opportunities and better education than what our predecessors could have ever imagined. With all of this access, opportunity and education, we find ourselves looking back and questioning the effectiveness thereof.
How is it that life in the promised land feels so unbearable and worse? Surely, this is surprising, even to our parents and grandparents.
For example, my mother, at my age, had already had several years of “work-experience” and was pretty chuffed with her ability to earn a bit of money, especially as an independent woman of her time. In comparison to today's generation, she earned much less and could only afford basic things; nonetheless, she and many others like her were not as depressed and sunless as the 20-something year-old living in our time with an equivalent income. For the 20-something year-old of today, that type of work would be the prime example of "the failure of the youth to progress and to be emancipated from the shackles of this unjust economy." It would be the prime feature of worker-exploitation and the classic scene of the economic inequality of South Africa.
But how are we this depressed, when our predecessors have gone through “the most”?
Expectation, that’s what it is.
The previous generations expected less from life, especially amongst those who were classified as natives. And so, my mother’s low-income job in retail was actually not that bad. The fact that our fathers and uncles did not own any cars or properties in their 20’s did not matter at all!
Today, the expectations are high. Your inability to afford a car, for example, in your 20’s is seen as your failure and causes feelings of depression and non-achievement. This is despite the unemployment rate in South Africa sitting at over 27% and over 38% amongst the youth in the third quarter of 2018. Well, according to Stats SA, the “youth” is classified as people between the ages 15 to 34. I don’t recall my 15-year-old-self languishing in unemployment. I didn’t have a job, of course, I was in school! But; anyway, this is how the statistics experts have chosen to present the information regarding unemployment and perhaps begs for a different discussion in a different article.
Living in a country that has the youth in its majority, we are the “target market” of election campaigns. Ask the EFF. It is relatively easy for politicians to preach a rhetoric that would sound more attractive to desperate young people. We are desperate and tired - we are thus likely to go for whoever can offer more immediate “solutions.” We have grown impatient - not angry - impatient. As superficial as it may sound, time is running out for us - we just want to have those jobs, own those cars, and live in those properties. It is a blatantly generalised statement, I know, but that’s how it is. The sluggish progress of our lives is what’s keeping us depressed. Sort that out and we will give you our votes.
With that said, this platform will be the portal for young voices of this country. We will say what we think - we will own the conversation - from the youth, by the youth. Because, well, this is what we think.
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