The following is an opinion piece by MVC intern Sonke Mzana. Views expressed may not necessarily reflect that of MVC.

It is no secret that we live on a continent with leaders who are power-hungry. Presidents serving for 30 or 40 years and well past an age where they need assistance with almost every turn. If youth — people under the age of 35, can reach opportunities to hone their leadership skills and be respected by elders instead of being looked down upon, maybe this will be a turning point in our economies and societies overall.

Youth have a key role to play in transforming South Africa into the kind of society that we would like it to become. In order for us to improve our education, our economy and our health care systems, we need to be given a chance to experience leadership positions where we will be involved in decision making, giving ideas and shaping the future of the country. Make no mistake though, we are not being unreasonable in this call for leadership. Yes, experience plays a role but we are asking that we be respected and not be treated as we are kindergartens. Maybe the issue is that the age category for youth runs up to 35. These people typically have families, bonds, debt you name it. Nothing compared to an 18 year old. Or maybe it’s the fact that we’re living in a fast-paced technological world where the younger generation learn much quicker than others…The bottom line is the call for respect for youth in SA.

In our education system, the only time youth play a role is when they are teachers but most of the School Governing Bodies are led by retirees.

“Most leadership positions in the education system are occupied by older people. It is not that as youth we don’t want to be in these positions but we are not given an opportunity to be in charge”, says Mr Lubabalo Majenge, a 31 year old Communications Manager from the Alfred Nzo District Municipality. He added, “There is only one school out a total of 15 from the Alfred Nzo and OR Tambo District where there is one young person in an SGB position meaning we are being excluded as youth because of our young age and they do not trust us”. He is of the point of view that if older leaders can take responsibility in grooming youth, a lot of successful change can happen in our education system.

As far as our Health system goes, there is quite a lot of youth in leadership positions such as CEO’s of hospitals particularly in our hospitals in rural areas and they are doing a great job.

South Africa is a youthful nation with an estimated more than 36% of the population between the ages of 14 and 35. It is surprising why our leaders are not accommodating more youth because we are the future generation of this country and this can be a foundation for economic growth.

South Africa does not need leaders who are 80 years old. We need leaders who are young, vibrant and innovative. We as young people need to be supported to begin to act for ourselves and take responsibility for our own lives.

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