YOUTH EMPOWERMENT AT PIETERMARITZBURG DIALOGUE

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By Justice Malapane

  • Young people were urged to actively seek opportunities and improve their lives during the Youth Dialogue in Sweetwater, Pietermaritzburg.
  • Ongoing efforts were highlighted to enhance living conditions for youth through collaboration with various government departments.
  • Concerns raised by parents include the role of the church in protecting youth, collaboration between churches and government, and the impact of corporal punishment abolition, with Minister Zulu affirming children’s rights and urging youth to stay in school for better opportunities.

On the final day of the Youth Dialogue in Sweetwater, Pietermaritzburg, KZN Province, Minister of Social Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu, encouraged young individuals to seize opportunities and enhance their lives.

“As the Department of Social Development, we have many interventions and programmes to change people’s lives. However, the policies and programmes in place, require active youth who would enquire and access these services,” said Minister Zulu.

Working alongside various government departments, the Minister stated that efforts are being made to enhance the living conditions of people on the ground, especially the youth.

The Minister also advised parents to collaborate with social partners and law enforcement authorities to monitor the behavioural changes of their children.

I believe that the church plays a crucial role in society, including protecting youth from social ills like chronic diseases. “Another important aspect is that when I was growing up, we used to study Religious Education at school, and my wish is that we revise and reintroduce such a curriculum for the youth,” says Mzwandile Mkhize.

A parent who is a member of the Holiness Unified Church in Pietermaritzburg expressed gratitude for the government’s accomplishments over its thirty years of existence, stating that the community appreciates the deliveries made.

“The Introduction of social grants, free housing and other poverty alleviation measures are highly appreciated,” said Mrs Nandipha Somo.

Another parent, Ms Nomasonto Khoza, emphasised the need for collaboration between churches and government. She also said that once children are part of the church,

“they become the church’s responsibility, we need the government to also work closely with churches to address their basic needs.”

“Our concern as parents is that, children are no longer beaten or punished, as corporal punishment is abolished by government. We are responsible citizens today because we used to be beaten, but nowadays, our children do as they please, and some are heavy users, as we do not have power over them anymore,” said Ms Khoza.

In response to the raised concerns, Minister Zulu emphasised that corporal punishment has detrimental effects on the lives of many children. She highlighted that both the Constitution and the Children’s Act uphold and advocate for the rights of all South Africans, including children, without any form of exclusion.

The Minister then encouraged young people at the Dialogue to stay in school, as education is the key to unlocking opportunities for them.

“Failure to remain in school leads to exposure to various social ills, including, teenage pregnancy, huge rate of school drop out and excessive levels of poverty, unemployment and inequality. Most importantly, I am pleading with parents to open up and speak with their children about everything in life. It is through Dialogue that we will be able to empower our youth and strengthen our families,” concluded Minister Zulu.

Pictures by Precious Mupenzi

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