Young South Africans… wake up & smell the coffee!!!

The Honourable President of the Republic Jacob Zuma once made such a commendable remark in one of his January 8 statements that for students dependent on the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, who are registered at tertiary institutions, the loan for the final year will be converted to a full bursary upon successfully completing their studies. I danced in jubilation when hearing this piece of good news as I saw it as an important victory for young people in our land.

This affirms our government’s recognition that the growth of a skills-based society will ultimately limit poverty and unemployment levels. This firm declaration further intensifies the declaration of the people’s movement as reflected in the Freedom Charter that, “education shall be free, compulsory and universal for all children”.

This will ultimately eradicate the saddest notion that education received by a black African child is inferior to that of his or her white counterpart. In the same manner, it will promote equality between black and white children’s level of education.

It is motivating to see that our government is not perpetrating a situation whereby children from certain racial groups are only taught how to drill rocks in the mines and plough potatoes on the farms. Education is the privilege and right of every young person of any race, colour or gender.

The challenge that government, together with institutions of higher learning are faced with is making sure that education is directed at full development of the human personality and strengthening respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The lack of hunger for education of young people in this country constitutes a serious threat to our hard-fought democracy. To overthrow inequality, poverty and unemployment we need a society that will hunger for knowledge and self-empowerment.

This will be a development of the highest importance in our country where we have been witnessing instances where so many young people opt for sitting on street corners or gangsterism rather than being at school.

It is therefore everyone’s responsibility to encourage those young forces who permanently disregard the value of education and self-empowerment to go back to class and start dreaming of a better world for themselves and communities around them.

I challenge the youth of this country to take up the challenge of self-empowerment and not leave this in the hands of the state.

I desire to see a generation of young people hungry for education and personal development. But I also wish to appeal strongly to those who are already empowered to continuously pass on positive thinking and knowledge to those still at school.

Lastly, I welcome the progress made towards free education so far as promised in the Freedom Charter. I would like to request the Minister of Finance in his next Budget Speech to consider granting tax relief to all young people from previously disadvantaged backgrounds, under the age of 30, during their first year of formal employment.

This tax-free salary during one’s first year of formal employment will enable many young South Africans to service their study loans, further their studies and take care of their families with the decency that they so deserve.