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Inspiration from our youth



Youth Day commemorates the day in 1976 when South African youth stood up for their future. The SA Jewish Report asks Jewish youth what this day means to them. Here’s what they said.

Jayda Sack, Yeshiva College, Grade 12

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” These famed words of renowned English poet John Keats have never resonated more for South African youth. Our country, our home, is full of beauty and life. We are the future of this country that has a rich history of both struggle and triumph. Many of our young identities are shaped by our country’s complex past. Most relevant would be the apartheid legacy, which left no South African untouched. Forty-seven years ago, on 16 June 1976, the suppressed power of the South African youth erupted.

Those who were disempowered as a result of the Bantu Education System took to the streets of Soweto and demanded their rights to education. It’s humbling to think that if young people who had been granted so little could make such a grand difference in their society, how much more we as privileged young people can create change.

For many, present-day South Africa is a story of doom and gloom. As a matric student, I’ve been advised many times to “get out of this place”, and have been told ad nauseam that “there’s no future in South Africa”.

However, if the youth of 1976 accepted their circumstances with obedience, where would we be today? We are the future, it’s our responsibility to stop the cry of our beloved country. South Africa, our rainbow nation, has so much to offer. Its culture, nature, and spirit shall persevere, and I look forward to seeing South Africa flourish once again. For after all, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”

Gadiel Janet, Yeshiva College, Grade 12

Every year, a sense of dread fills me as I see the ominous day etched into the calendar – June 16, Youth Day.

It may seem odd for this day off school to induce fear in a student. Surely, it should be the opposite! However, I fear for myself, my accomplishments, and my value as a human being. How do I compare to the tremendous feat achieved by the courageous students that took part in the Soweto uprising? How can I, a sheltered Jewish boy, even contemplate comparing myself to those who inspired the end of apartheid? Therefore, I fear.

However, I’m thinking too big. Neither I nor the youth of 1976 tried to change the world. All they wanted to do was make a change. They believed they deserved a fair education, and they fought to change things. I now see that the youth of today doesn’t need to aim for worldwide change. We can change ourselves, then our families and schools, and from there, the sky’s the limit.

This Youth Day, I seek to be the change I wish to see. I seek to improve myself so that others may follow. By constantly striving for improvement, I believe that South African youth can build a future we look forward to.

Donna Levin, King David High School Victory Park, Grade 12

They say that the future lies in the present, with the people that live now. So then, does the past lie with those that lie beneath us? How am I, a mere Grade 12 student, a person who must still ask for permission to use the bathroom, supposed to make a difference in the world?

We see Youth Day as a solemn day, when we honour the youth who died during the apartheid regime. That lies in the past, and it’s a pain that the entire nation will carry. But how, with no clear impending doom but rather a slow-rising water that seems to threaten us, do I look toward the future? Am I expected to carry the weight of the youth who died, or am I expected to rise above it – while the mere weight of exams next week threatens to chain me to the bottom of the sea.

I know better than to ask how I feel about the future. I could ask how I feel about the present. I feel that I will slowly but surely move forward. Perhaps not carrying the full weight of the youth who died, not the grief and turmoil, but rather, I will take their ambition with me and, in the present, I will do the best I can. Every day, in every way, better and better and better.

Zara Abramsohn, King David High School Victory Park, Grade 11

A total of 63.3% of South Africa’s population is constituted of individuals between the ages of 15 and 34. The majority of South Africa is our youth, and we are already making changes. As a young person myself, I look forward to many adjustments.

Developments in online thrift shopping has taken South African youth by storm. Instagram accounts aimed directly at staying current without hindering our environment with fast fashion, are proliferating. Our youth is looking good, and helping the environment while doing so.

Another aspect of change is in South Africa’s artists and culture. Bouncing back quickly from the COVID-19 pandemic, artisans are back on the prowl. South African youths are finally allowed to re-introduce themselves to the vastness of South Africa’s artistry. Young musicians, such as 20-year-old Will Linley, have the opportunity to express themselves on stage once more. Youth playing for youth.

South Africa might be going through a bit of a rough patch in some areas, but our youth is recovering from the strains of our past, and we’re excelling in whatever we try. South Africa’s youth will soon be able to change the world – even with the lights out.

Feigie Shaman, Cape Town Torah High, Grade 11

South Africa is an amazing place for youth today. The after-effects of apartheid have had a large influence on our behaviour. For instance, we are much less discriminatory than previous generations, and are more accepting of all different cultures, races, ideologies, and how our world can be improved. There’s so much potential in our generation and amazing leaders on the rise who have incredible ideas about how to change our country and world for the better, such as creating sustainable energy sources, innovative business ideas, and their immense talent adds to our South African art and culture industry.

While many aren’t optimistic because of loadshedding and corruption, we need to look further than that to the beauty and potential our country holds. The question is not what’s wrong with our country, but what we can do to make a change. I’ve already had an amazing youth so far, and I can see the memories and opportunities getting so much better!

Rachel Brett, Cape Town Torah High, Grade 11

South Africa has faced many challenges in the past. As a youth living in South Africa, although I sometimes feel a little discouraged, I believe that my country has the possibility of a brighter future. As the youth, we have the responsibility to make a difference, whether it be by speaking out or finding ways that we can help a cause close to our hearts. I would like to see a decrease in the number of people living on the streets. It’s disheartening and heartbreaking, and I wish that one day, these people will have the opportunity for a better life and the ability to pursue their aspirations.

With the help of leaders that care about the people and want to serve them with integrity, we can help our country for the better. It’s up to the youth to be those leaders who are motivated by caring, not self-interest. You don’t need to be a politician or leader with great power to create change and make an impact. I look forward to seeing my country flourish with the help of youth as leaders in their communities.

Jarred Zolty, Cape Town Torah High, Grade 11

There’s plenty of hope for the future of South African youth. Many of us have big plans for our own future, but who can say that there’s no future for us here? It’s up to us to build the future of the country. The youth of our nation has been subject to many struggles but overall, the education system has never been more accessible. More and more students are getting a good education, and that in itself will help build the South Africa we dream of living in.

No-one chooses the situation they are born into, but every one of us has the power to create the change we want to see. I have faith that as South Africans, we have the grit and dedication to rebuild South Africa with a vision for our future. The youth will soon become the leaders of tomorrow, and by building the economy, by creating start-ups, assisting our communities, and continuing to show pride in being South African, we can become the leaders of tomorrow, the business owners of tomorrow, the sportsmen of tomorrow, and most importantly, the community builders of tomorrow.

Yudi Shishler, Torah Academy, Grade 7

South Africa has had a rough past. The past few weeks in particular have been really tough. Stage 6 loadshedding kept us in the dark for hours at a time. Our economy is also under pressure, as the rand dropped to almost R20 to the United States dollar. That’s besides the potholes, crime, and a government that seems to have forgotten about its people.

People often think that if something has been bad in the past, it will continue to go in the same direction. On the contrary, I think loadshedding might force South Africa to become a world leader in alternative energy. We’re blessed that in our country we have abundant sunshine, so we really have a lot of potential to develop solar energy.

South Africa’s greatest treasure isn’t gold or platinum, but its people. Wherever you go, people smile and greet you and are happy. A country that has friendly and happy people always has a bright future. I feel confident when I think about the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s blessing: “South Africa is good, and it will be better.”

Dovid Medalie, Torah Academy, Grade 9

South Africa has had a difficult past marked by corruption and segregation. However, young people are determined to cancel out the past and create a brighter future in which everyone has an equal chance, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or race.

Our youth looks forward to all people having an equal chance at getting an education. It also looks forward to educational facilities providing adequate resources with which to educate us.

We also look forward to a change in parliament. Since apartheid ended, the African National Congress has been in charge. It’s time for a change. Hopefully, a more forward-thinking party will get elected in the 2024 national elections. Then, maybe, it can solve our biggest issues such as unemployment, a national shortage of coal to produce electricity, and crime. These are a massive stain on our country’s reputation.

Equality and fairness is another thing the youth looks forward to in the future. We want to live in a society in which everyone has equal rights. In doing so, we would create a stronger economy in which everyone receives a sufficient salary that will boost our gross domestic product.

The youth of South Africa remains hopeful and committed to building a better future for ourselves and our country. In order for us to achieve this goal, we have to continue to work hard and never give up, even when the situation looks dire.

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