It is the first time in the country’s history that the Youth Month will be commemorated amid a pandemic. Inequality, poverty, and a high unemployment rate continue to dash the dreams of South Africa’s youth. The National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) has now called on government to provide a minimum employment guarantee for young people struggling to find jobs.

A protest that would change the course of history in South Africa.

On June 16, 1976, thousands of black students took to the streets to challenge an oppressive apartheid system.

Many lost their lives on that day. More than 44 years later, young people fall prey to social ills rooted in the unjust history of this country.

And now recently, a faceless deadly enemy, the coronavirus, has become a challenge. The NYDA has created a relief fund to help unburden youth-owned enterprises throughout this period.

The agency is now calling on government to assist unemployed youth.

“One of the things that the NYDA is reflecting on this youth month is that it’s not necessary to guarantee or give every young person a minimum employment guarantee, give every young person the dignity associated with work because even when we reflect on other social ills like GBV and substance abuse, many of those are facets of dignity taken away from them,” NYDA Chief Executive Officer, Waseem Careem.

Decades later, young people from political formations reflected on what the class of 76 fought for and questioned if the current government is empowering the youth.

“While we celebrate the 44th anniversary of the 1976 uprising, we understand that we are faced with an abnormal situation and abnormal circumstances where young people are uncertain about whether they will be going back to varsity. But our message to them is that they must remain determined like the class of 76,” says ANC National Youth Task Team’s Sizophila Mkhize.

Democratic Alliance’s Youth Federal Leader Luyolo Mphithi says South Africa has a broken government and a broken system.

“The truth of the matter is young people from 16 to 35 (years) have the risk of never working their entire lives. This conversation is about the people in power, the people who decide what the priorities are and where the resources go. join the DA in holding government accountable.”

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Member of Parliament Naledi Chirwa says this is an opportunity to “We take this time to remember the efforts of June 16, also to invigorate the youth of South Africa today, to continue to call for the overhaul of white supremacy in the system; to continue to confront racism in all the spaces that we occupy.

Inkatha Freedom Party Youth Brigade Chairperson Mthokozisi Nxumalo has encouraged the youth to play a critical role in what the country is currently facing.

“We also want to reflect on the youth of 1976, that it was during this month where they took to the streets to ensure that they hold government accountable. So, we do implore our young people to also play a critical role at this time.”

The Freedom Front Plus is calling for change.

“The FF Plus Youth of 2020, just like the youth of 76, we would like to see change. We would like to see change in our government and their opinions. We would like to see change in legislation and the minority youth of South Africa would like to see equal opportunities,” says FF Plus Youth Leader Tammy Breedt.

The United Democratic Movement Youth Vanguard’s Yongama Zigebe says there is a leadership vacuum.

“We need an inclusion of the current industrial revolution. We need leaders; we are leaderless as young people.”

African Transformation Movement says it is time for the youth to participate in the informal economy.

“We are being accused of being a lazy nation. We are being accused of being people who do not want to take initiative but we have policies that allow foreigners to dominate our local economy,” says the party’s youth leader Cati Moji.

The National Freedom Party is concerned about youth unemployment.

“The youth of today face many challenges such as the high unemployment rate, substance abuse and high level fraternity. We feel government is not doing much in creating platforms and environments to eradicate this from society,” says NFP Acting Youth President Mlungisi Mncube.

Al Jama-ah Muslim Political Party is calling for equal education.

“The education system is still broken and needs serious emancipation and transformation. We can upon all fellow young people to carry (the) baton to fight for an equal education in our lifetime,” says the party’s Youth Chairperson Kabelo Nthekiso.

This year’s youth month will be celebrated under the theme: “Youth Power: Growing South Africa together in the period of COVID-19.”

Much like the youth of 1976, today’s youth is faced with its own unique set of challenges. Mounting calls have been made by this generation to be included into the mainstream economy.

In the video below, young political leaders give their take on issues affecting the youth: