By Hassan Isilow
JOHANNESBURG (AA) - South Africa’s president on Sunday described youth unemployment as “a national crisis,” vowing to tackle it with a variety of new approaches.
According to official government data, 27.6% of South Africans are unemployed, most of them young people.
“We are committed to provide our young people with all the opportunities possible to enable them to reach their potential. This begins with education,” Cyril Ramaphosa told an audience at National Youth Day celebrations held in the city of Polokwane.
The day commemorates scores of black students who were killed by apartheid police during a 1976 student uprising in Soweto.
The protests were a turning point in the country’s struggle against white minority rule.
Ramaphosa said during this era of technological advances, young people need certain tools to navigate the changes technology brings to the workplace for them to seize opportunities.
“We are therefore prioritizing science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics in our education system,” he said, adding that coding and data analytics are also being introduced in schools.
Ramaphosa also said his government is determined to ensure that no young person in the country is ever denied a decent education due to their family’s financial circumstances.
“We are phasing in free tertiary education for children from poor and working-class backgrounds,” he said.
Ramaphosa said the budget of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, which supports students from poor to working-class families, last year grew exponentially from 70 million rand (some $4.7 million) to nearly 15 billion rand ($1.1 billion).
He said jobs are also being created through the Youth Employment Service initiative, as well as the National Youth Development Agency, which gives funds to young entrepreneurs who help create jobs.
Ramaphosa also appealed to members of the private sector to help create jobs and urged young people to not give up hope.