The recent boycott of the elections by eligible young South Africans places the country on precarious grounds and down a slippery road to a bleak future that can only spell disaster for our developing nation.
Granted, there are a myriad of challenges that face the youth with high unemployment topping the list. But it is precisely because of these challenges that our young people must be actively involved in shaping the trajectory our country is taking. The future of this country belongs to the young and therefore they cannot afford to outsource it to others. For things to change they must become part of the driving force to effect the change they envision.
Throwing their hands up in the air and hope that things will change on their own is something that should be discouraged by all. The youth make up a significant number our population and thus it should have been them who outnumbered other age groups in the elections. The fact that they did not come out in their numbers is to exercise this democratic right is frightening, to say the least.
By saying this, one does not mean to discount or reduce the impact of their daily struggles which have broken the spirits of many youths.
One of the major challenges that also threaten to change the future of our youth in the most dramatic way is the shortage of water. This is one of the challenges they should not brush aside because their very lives and those of their children depend on it. It is thus hoped that their attitude towards finding solutions to our water challenges would not remain lukewarm. For them this is one of the pressing and serious issues that need their attention.
This is important because our country’s water sector is in dire need of young people who possess skills that are commensurate to solving the challenges in the sector. Thus, if the boycotting of the elections could spill over to such sectors as the water sector, our country faces a grim prospect of contending with even more pressing challenges in the future.
In this regard, the Department of Water and Sanitation has a number of programmes that are geared towards the youth. For an example, through its 2020 Vision Water and Sanitation Education Programme, the department is targeting grade 10 and 11 learners to transmit the messages of water and sanitation related issues. The programme is the main driver of community-based water literacy initiatives.
One other important programme that is being run by the department is the South African Youth Water Prize Competition. This competition is a response to chronic shortage of critical skills in the water sector. To give effect to its vision to replenish the depleting skills in the sector, the department identities talented learners from grade 9 to 11 who can provide innovative solutions to tackle water-related challenges in areas such as waste water treatment, water quality and water ecosystem, amongst others.
The national winner of this competition will represent the country in Stockholm, Sweden, at the Annual Stockholm Junior Youth Water Prize (SJWP) where they will compete with learners from 30 other countries later this year. One of the aims of the competition is to promote the protection of natural resources and to encourage the youth to actively participate in integrated and community based water resource management. Accordingly, the department expects that these youths will go on to becoming engineers that will assist the country to find solutions to water challenges.
It is therefore vitally important that the youth of our country takes interested in whatever that is happening around them. Their legitimate expectations will only be addressed if they are part and parcel of finding solutions to their needs and those of the country. So, without a firm commitment from them to contribute to make this country a better place to live in, we can only be sure of moving from our current situation to a state of failure.
Hosia Sithole is a communicator at the Department of Water and Sanitation, Gauteng Region.