On 16 June, 1976, a demonstration in Soweto led mainly by high school students was met with a brutal crackdown by police that resulted in scores of deaths, setting off a wave of protests and violent conflicts that rumbled across South Africa. This month marks the 45th anniversary of that day—commemorated as Youth Day--and it is important to reflect 45 years later how young people are doing across South Africa.
What we see defines a country filled with young people in trouble. “NEETs” is a term used to describe young people between the ages of 15-24 who are not in employment, education or training. Widespread concerns about the large numbers of youth in this situation centre on two main issues: the perpetuation of poverty and inequality, including intergenerational poverty, and the possible implications of a large “idle” youth population for risk behavior, social cohesion and the safety of communities. The large number of NEETs in South Africa is linked to underlying problems in the education system and the labor market. Only about half of young people in their early twenties have successfully completed grade 12.
We could easily see NEETs as someone else’s problem, but we know at the core of our being that this is not right and the issues cannot be ignored. The focus for our work in Scripture Union is on school children as we introduce them to Jesus and promote a lifelong journey of discipleship. But what happens to the NEETs? Is it enough for us to introduce young people to Jesus but leave them trapped in poverty and hopelessness? Instead, is this not the moment for churches and people of faith to engage the status quo on behalf of the children of our Nation? We won’t have another 45 years to get this issue sorted out.
Join us throughout the month in weekly podcasts, weekly ‘newsbites,’ and other posts that we trust will start a rallying cry on behalf of our children that brings change (www.su.org.za.) It’s been 45 years too long. . .
Believing that the children of our nation deserve better….
 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Youth Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET) (indicator). 2017. Accessed 6 June 2017: https://data.oecd.org/youthinac/youth-not-in-employmenteducation-or-training-neet.html.