A speech by Democratic Alliance Youth Chairperson and MP, Yusuf Cassim, during the party’s debate on the ‘Lost Generation’, the millions of young people who are not employed, in education or training, in the National Assembly this afternoon.
What hope is there for a poor black child in South Africa?
Surely this is the question that should have preoccupied every administration seeking to build a just society in the more than two decades since we attained liberation.
Yet today, as I address you, a black child in South Africa is still a hundred times more likely to grow up in poverty than a white child.
This, Honourable Speaker, is no coincidence. It is the direct consequence of subsequent administrations caring more about setting up political patronage networks than caring about what hope they can give to a poor black child. This is why we have an entire generation who have given up hope of finding work.
The reality is, that if you had the misfortune of being a poor black child growing up in South Africa, you would most likely be one of the 50% of grade 1 pupils who never live to write a matric examination. Most certainly you would be one of the 80% of children who would receive an education that is considered among the very worst in the world – an education that will consign you to a lifetime of poverty. If, through sheer grit and determination you manage to beat these odds and actually write and pass a matric examination, chances are you would be part of the 75% of matriculants without a bachelor’s pass.
Perhaps I should break this down into language that ANC MPs can understand. It would be like if we told you that for every 8 ANC MPs, only 1 will make it to return as a Member of Parliament…perhaps because we have to make space for Brian Molefe. These are the odds you have given our children. I warn you, that if you continue taking our generation down this path, it will be that only 1 out of 8 of you return.
It is, therefore, no coincidence that young black South Africans face unemployment levels of over 60%, or that over three million South Africans, referred to as NEETs, are “Not in Education, Employment, or Training”. It is certainly no coincidence that over 9 million South Africans are unemployed.
These are the Lost Generation! The children who have long been forsaken and forgotten, without hope of succeeding in a just society. The youth of this country who have been set up to fail and never make it out of poverty.
The DA believes that rescuing the lost generation is our greatest challenge. And it is a challenge that the ANC government refuses to face.
This is why since the DA took over the government in the Western Cape, we have broken new ground and have both the highest retention rates and bachelor’s pass rates in the country.
We have cared about what hope there is for a poor black child. This is why the pass rate for the most disadvantaged schools in the province has been improved to 75%, having been 57% when the DA took over from the ANC in the Western Cape in 2009. The Western Cape’s top learner in Science hails from Phundulwazi Secondary School in Phillipi, a disadvantaged school. Under a DA government, Siphelele Xabendlini achieved 100% for Science.
With a DA-led government in 2019, opening opportunities for young South Africans, and preparing them for these opportunities, will be our greatest focus.
We will join hands with the thousands of truly committed teachers and principals in turning our schools around.
Whilst protecting each teacher’s right to strike, we will limit this right to ensure a minimum core of teaching hours. We will also ensure that unions do not encroach on the day-to-day running of education departments.
We will invest in training existing teachers and recruiting more teachers with excellent skills, particularly in maths and science. We will explore the feasibility of bringing back teacher training colleges, and make it easier for excellent teachers from other countries to help plug skills gaps in our education system.
We will empower parents through a voucher system and will seek to create a National Education Inspectorate to ensure quality.
We will create Collaboration schools to harness value from NGOs and the private sector as we have done here in the Western Cape.
We will incentivise schools to retain learners instead of leaving them to join the ranks of the lost generation. We will ensure that learners acquire the requisite reading, writing and calculating skills in the Foundation Phase as part of our retention strategy.
Hon. Speaker, we will do all this and more because a just society would never stomach producing a lost generation.