by Pamela Maringa

We have just celebrated another Youth Day, 16 June, and the questions that come to mind are; what is the difference this year? What has changed? Are the sacrifices that the youth of 1976 made for us appreciated? Are we, as young people, using the opportunities given to us? What does it mean to be a young person today?

As you walk in the streets of our country, there is a sense of hopelessness. Often you see some young people on the street corners playing cards and soccer. Those who have had the opportunity to study just come back and sit around with their qualifications collecting dust.

As a young adult in South Africa today, I’m lucky to be among the small number of young people who are working. It is a sad reality that most of my friends are not working. The challenge of unemployment continues to grow larger every day, causing my peers to resort to things like drugs, crimes, become dependent on “blessers” and early pregnancy.

As if unemployment was not enough, we now have to deal with the frustration and anxiety of having to inherit the junk status of the economic down grade and the recession hitting South Africa. The debt ratio of the national budget sits at 50% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In other words, 50% of all the products produced in our country go to repaying debt. This means that by 2025, we will be middle aged and we will still be repaying and rebuilding the economy. This is a troubling thought for a young woman like me who just started working, the fear of not knowing what will happen to me.

Being a young adult also means being able to take responsibility. I can choose to be different and not move with the wind. We can go around pointing out all the problems in the country and continue to blame each other. At the end of the day, however, it’s about what do we do to change the situation. Are we going to just sit back and let our future get ruined? Are we going to be the “blesser” and “blessee” generation?

I may not have all the answers that you are looking for, but I choose to make a difference in my own life. I will use what I have and make it work for me. We all have something we are good at, our God given talents. Right now you are reading the article I wrote and this is my job.  Use the talents you have been given and make them work for you. Let’s have a new mind-set of “what can I do for or with government”. We owe it to the youth who fought for our freedom to get education and help lift the burden of poverty in our communities. Youth are the most active and have the most energy. Like the youth of 1976, let’s be the youth that changes things and makes history. Let’s give the coming generations hope.

The Bible tells us “do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). We are encouraged to be innovative in our businesses. We should not try to be like anyone else. As people of faith, it is important that we spread the messages of hope, courage, and self-worth. We need to pray that young people will start to see things differently. I believe if, as young people, we follow the example given us by Christ, we will be able to reduce most of our social problems.

Your future is not in anyone else’s hands, but yours. You decide what happens to you. Dream and strive to make those dreams a reality.