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Young South Africans Mark 'Youth Day' Listing Their Challenges

FILE - Children wearing school uniform observe the iconic image taken by photographer Sam Nzima, displayed at the Hector Pieterson Memorial in Soweto, South Africa, Friday, June 16, 2023, as the country celebrate Youth Day.

SOWETO — Young people in South Africa Friday gathered at the Hector Pieterson Memorial Center in Soweto to commemorate Youth Day sounding a call for the government to pay more attention to the challenges they are facing.

On June 16 1976, 12-year-old Hector Pieterson was shot by police. He and other schoolchildren were protesting against the use of Afrikaans as the language of instruction in schools.

The shooting marked the beginning of the Soweto uprisings and the eventual end of apartheid. Each year, on the same date, South Africa observes Youth Day.

Today, young people came to the Pieterson Memorial in the Johannesburg township to mark the anniversary of Pieterson's killing. But 47 years later, the youth say the democratic government has done very little to create an environment conducive for them to excel and live a decent life.

Soweto's Dineo Shabangu told VOA that most young South Africans are frustrated, adding young people there need jobs.

"We need to be balanced in the economy. We need to balance the economy and bring the economy up, so we really need jobs. The government needs to open those factories that have shutdown," Shabangu said.

The rate of unemployment among youth aged 15 to 24 years continues to rise. Statistics show that it climbed from 61% to 62.1% in 2023.

Another young South African, Tebogo Mathebula, said he concerned about the increasing rates of other problems, including teenage pregnancy and drug abuse.

"We don’t have anyone who can lead us in the right path as the youth. The government isn’t giving us the recognition that we need, he told VOA.

In his Youth Day message at the main event held in South Africa’s Free State province, Deputy President Paul Mashatile assured young people that the government was hard at work addressing the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty, and the quality of education.

Buhlale Nkomo from Pretoria blamed the lack of quality education for most of the problems faced by young people.

"I feel like schools should teach us how to be responsible and how to grow each other instead of feeding us with knowledge that is going to be stuck in our heads and it won’t be useful because there are less jobs now," Nkomo said.