Leading youth development practitioners at a webinar hosted last week by Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation and its partner entity Cyril Ramaphosa Education Trust (CRET) called for the support of South Africa’s youth now to realise society’s needs in the future.

“We have been enamoured by the role many young professionals are playing on the frontlines of the response to Covid-19,” the Foundation said. “It powerfully demonstrates the need to commit to the development of young people, especially in an uncertain world,” it said.

With youth unemployment figures in South Africa expected to worsen as a result of the global pandemic, participants at the webinar said the long term solution lies in addressing skills development from an early age, including both technical and soft skills,  as well as an ongoing focus on skills transfer.

The webinar aimed to strengthen the partnership between youth development practitioners and the private sector in confronting the challenges to continued youth development support under present economic conditions.

Watch the webinar here and here is what some of the 60 plus attendees had to say:

“We need to get back to basics, basic after school care available to our students, like Thari, basic infrastructure as a standard at our schools, thanks to programmes like Adopt-a-School, mentorship after you have decided your path, available through programmes like Black Umbrellas – this is all vital to changing the future. And the youth who benefit from these programmes must remember, when you climb that career ladder to the 50th floor and you stand in the sun, leave the ladder behind so someone can follow you and feel the warmth.” – Dr Tshepo Motsepe, South Africa’s First Lady.

“Covid-19 could prove to be a cocktail of disaster or a real opportunity to take bold actions and make even bolder investments to help realise the potential of our youth. Today, right now, young people need our support and it’s time we realise that challenges almost always travel alongside opportunities.” – Mmabatho Maboya, CEO of CRF.

“Offering access to job shadowing and mentorship, which teach students skills like how to communicate in a business arena, understand what leadership means, how to think critically about business challenges, teamwork, assertiveness and emotional intelligence (EQ), arms them with vital skills that will make them more easily employable.” – Christian Phephenyane, Corporate Affairs and Human Capital executive at the Pilanesberg Platinum Mine (PPM).

Before Covid-19, we struggled with poverty, unemployment and inequality, all this pandemic has done is worsen the situation, more so where our youth are concerned. Webinars like this, including the youth and the ‘not so youth’ is a good first step to building experience and finding innovative solutions that address the challenges of our new world. But, we keep talking about young people and the role they’ll play in the future when what we actually need to see is them becoming functional members of our society today. These are not future challenges, they are today challenges and it’s time we put this into the correct perspective.” – Naka Hlagala of the Phembani Group.

“Where we, as supporters of this sect, should broaden our thinking is in the development of alternative skills. Many of us are looking after students who’ve already received education but what of those who are being left behind, who will never go to university? Many think support is only about money but, in some cases, it’s as simple as letting a business-minded young person job shadow you for a day to get a real feel for what running a business entails. There are many innovative, interested young people out there who are ready to absorb real life lessons accessible through the provision of psychosocial support, like mentorship and coaching, and work readiness training, like helping them secure a driver’s license.” – Chantelle Oosthuizen, Executive Director at CRET.

“Take a look around today and you’ll see, in spite of the fact that they are without a doubt most affected by Covid-19, young people are still demonstrating leadership, bravery and innovation in terms of global responses – they are our workers, health and safety inspectors, researchers, communicators and innovators with a voice that wants to be part of the solution for a healthier, safer, gender equal world. This is why organisations, including Naspers Labs, CRF’s Black Umbrellas and, naturally, CRET, are investing so heavily in this sector right now.” – Phuti Mahanyele-Dabengwa of Naspers SA.

“When you support the youth, you support the country and, as a CRET alum, I know the true value of organisations that strive to find ways to support them practically in today’s times. Covid-19 has been a shock to the system – we never anticipated this. As a young person, it’s been a humbling experience, one that has seen us having to think on our feet and also one that has seen numerous demonstrations of true humanity. At CRET, Ubuntu is real in that we are taught to exist outside of ourselves and within a community and it is this understanding of my place in the world that has enabled me to continue doing what I need to do in the medical field during this time.” – Dineo Nono, CRET alumnus.

“As Dineo said, we’ve received much by way of holistic support through our time at CRET and this ‘pay it forward’ way of living has empowered us in helping society today. They not only invest financially as we find our path, but also in the giving of time, mentorship and the teaching of soft skills. All of this helps us make inroads that affect the communities around us.” Cyril Madiba, CRET advisory board chairman and senior analyst at ABSA.