By Unéné Gregory
In anticipation of next week’s general elections, we have been bombarded with manifestos from political parties, all making promises we have come to realise they will never fulfil. As with all African countries, the majority of South Africa’s population is under the age of 30, with about 36% under 25. That’s a lot of people who are eligible to vote; people who have grown up knowing the struggle of our past and the failed promises of our current government.
We are painfully aware of the challenges facing our country and our generation, yet we sometimes also feel powerless to make a tangible difference.
The various challenges we face — ranging from a lack of ethical and knowledgeable leadership, to unemployment and being unable to access opportunities to become contributors to our country — all seem insurmountable.
But even in these tumultuous times, when there seem to be few options in the way of viable alternatives to governance, we cannot afford to stand idly by and not use our voting power.
Three things that could be implemented to make our country a better place are:
1. Introduce mandatory military service and volunteering
Before you dismiss the idea, let me explain. Among the numerous debates, articles and political analyses on the current state of South Africa, one of the many key points that have been raised is the lack of ethical and responsible leadership. This is coupled with an attitude of entitlement. The right to access certain things, such as housing and education, have been confused and defined as something owed to the masses.
Mandatory military service or volunteering to work in rural hospitals or schools would be a means of serving one’s country. Rather than serving the purpose of training a large army reserve, as is the case in some of the other 26 countries that have such a programme, it would serve as a reminder that we are all in this together. Introducing a one-year programme for males and females aged 18 to 30 would do wonders for our country and the people involved.
It would, hopefully, instil a sense of patriotism, belonging and pride within our youth — the next generation that will be tasked with leading this nation. It will also, hopefully, foster more ethical leadership and allow us to keep each other accountable for the success (or failure) of this nation.
2. Education for entrepreneurship
Instead of waiting for the government to conjure up employment for millions of talented and intelligent people (which is impossible), or looking to big business to absorb the scores of graduates in our country – which, given the number of layoffs globally, is a bleak prospect – we could shift our mindsets from one of employee to one of creator.
This could take the form of a non-graded course for grade 10 and 11 learners. It would benefit us as a nation to train our youth to identify and exploit opportunities around them, both locally and internationally. It could encourage them to take a mental shift from working towards finding a job to working for themselves. This is when initiatives, such as support for small and medium enterprises, can begin making a tangible difference.
Globally, the 9 to -5 work day is dying a slow death. It’s being replaced by more freelance work. Such a shift requires transitioning from just wanting to show up and get paid, to adding value to others, which then leads to one getting paid.
Yes, entrepreneurship is not for everyone. It doesn’t have to be. Equally, we need to teach our citizens how to be self-reliant and, in so doing, also support them along the way, hopefully making a dent in our current unemployment rate of 27.5%. We need to turn the tide of our SMEs, which currently only account for approximately 30% of the country’s GDP, and change the percentage to one that better mirrors the global trend of 60% – and employing 60% to 70% of a country’s workforce.
3. TV shows that celebrate public service heroes
Let us celebrate the good that some of people in the public service do. It is important to celebrate those who go above and beyond in executing their duties, those that put in the time and effort to make sure we are all safer, wiser and healthier.
With all the bad press that public institutions get, it is important for us to learn about what really happens in those places and to celebrate those who make a positive difference (at least as much as shaming those who disgrace us).
Besides some of the other bigger issues we must deal with and resolve as a nation, these changes, if implemented, could have an immediate and positive influence on the state of our nation and how we proceed in the future.
Unéné Gregory is the founder of Ambulation Technologies, a prosthetics start-up. She also writes for The Contemplating Entrepreneur blog
Source Mail & Guardian