Home » Tapping Into Power: Why South Africa’s Youth Needs to Rise Up Politically

Tapping Into Power: Why South Africa’s Youth Needs to Rise Up Politically

by Tia

South Africa is a land brimming with potential. Yet, the promise of a truly equitable and prosperous future feels frustratingly out of reach. Here’s where the nation’s most potent resource comes in – its youth, says Anwar-Yasser Rassool, Founder of the FEST Foundation. Here he discusses why, when comes to political engagement, this vast reservoir of energy remains largely untapped, and what the country should be doing to change the political trajectory.

According to Stats SA, South Africans from the ages of 18 to 35 make up more than a third of the total 58,8 Million people in the country. However, due to the high amount of youth, we are still at a loss for more representation in public office and in parliament. Integrating younger voices into political decision-making is crucial for driving positive change. While older politicians bring valuable experience to the table, it is the fresh perspective and innovative ideas of young leaders that can truly propel a country forward.

With the current political state of South Africa and the upcoming national elections, driving political awareness among the youth is more important than ever and by educating and engaging young people in political matters, we empower them to advocate for their needs and aspirations, ultimately shaping policies that directly affect their futures.

A government that is led by forward thinking, young members of society is desperately needed to take the nation into the future, but from what we are seeing, not many young people are passionate about taking the charge and actively participating in making a difference.

Apathy or Alienation? Why Youth Disengagement?

Several factors contribute to the current situation.  Firstly, a sense of disillusionment hangs heavy.  The post-apartheid era hasn’t delivered on all its promises. Corruption scandals and persistent inequality chip away at trust in institutions.  Young people may feel their voices wouldn’t be heard or that the political system is rigged against them.

Secondly, a lack of political education creates a disconnect.  Many young people haven’t been equipped with the knowledge and tools to navigate the complexities of the political landscape.  They may not understand different political ideologies or how to hold their elected representatives accountable.

Finally, traditional political engagement methods might feel outdated.  Mass rallies and party affiliations might not resonate with a generation that thrives online and seeks alternative avenues for expression.

Education – The Key to Unlocking Potential

Education plays a critical role in building a more politically engaged youth.  This belief forms the basis of the FEST Foundation, a non-profit organisation focused on the development of infrastructure in public schools. Renovating schools and ensuring learners and teachers have all the necessary resources serves as a catalyst for change. If we truly want to see transformation, a few key things must happen first:

  • Revamp the Curriculum – Integrate relevant political education into the school curriculum, teaching young people about South Africa’s political history, different political systems, and their rights as citizens.
  • Empower Critical Thinking – Encourage young people to think critically about political issues, analyze information, and form their own informed opinions.
  • Debate and Discussion – Create safe spaces within schools and communities for open discussions about political issues, fostering healthy debate and encouraging young people to articulate their ideas.

Empowering the Youth: Ways to Get Involved

The good news?  There are ways for South Africa’s youth to get involved, shaping the nation’s future:

  • Embrace Digital Democracy – Social media platforms and online petitions can be powerful tools for raising awareness and mobilising support for causes they care about. Online voting systems, accessible national databases for all updated political manifestos and effective social media campaigns can successfully engage younger voters who all share the same disinterest.
  • Local is the New Global – Engaging with local politics is crucial. Community activism, attending council meetings, and holding local representatives accountable can create real change at the grassroots level.
  • Issue-Based Politics – Focus on specific issues that matter to them, be it education reform, environmental protection, or economic opportunity. Youth can advocate for these issues by joining relevant organisations or starting their own initiatives.

A Brighter Future: The Power of a United Youth

Apathy only allows the status quo to persist. When the youth disengages, the voices pushing for a more just and equitable future are silenced.

Young people bring new ideas and innovative solutions to the table, challenging entrenched ways of thinking and propelling progress. A politically engaged youth holds politicians accountable, demanding better governance and transparency.

South Africa’s youth is not a passive observer; it’s a driving force for positive change which is why the significance of youth involvement in shaping the political landscape cannot be overstated. As we strive to build a better future for generations to come, it is imperative that we harness the energy and enthusiasm of young people and nurture their potential as leaders. Together, we can create a more inclusive and equitable society where every voice is heard and every individual has the opportunity to thrive.

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