Life as a Young Adult in South Africa
Aviwe Gift Ndalana
Let me start by introducing myself. My name is Aviwe Gift Ndalana, a 22-year-old male. I currently reside in a squatter camp in Zwelihle, Hermanus, South Africa. I have been fortunate in my late teens and early adult life to have been part of various non-governmental organizations such as District Six Museum, Great Minds Empire South Africa, and Young and Curious. I served as a young facilitator for District Six Museum from 2014 – 2019, served as a continental member of Great Minds Empire Africa and a President for Great Minds Empire South African chapter for the whole of 2019. I am currently a member of Young and Curious: a group of young people facing, addressing, and trying to teach social issues and mostly mental health through art under pivot collective. I have been and am involved with all the above-mentioned roles and organizations through volunteering. Apart from that, I have a skill and two years of work experience as a software developer.
Being a young adult in these trying times is not easy. We come from different backgrounds, mostly from humble beginnings. The majority of us have, for many years, been victims of poverty. We have memories of our pasts that we do not even want to think nor want to talk about because they bring about suffering and unforgettable memories. So, to say growing up was not easy sounds like a fairy tale to many, but for most of us it is the reality. Most of can and do understand that we are where we are currently because of the sacrifices our parents, uncles, aunties, grannies, and former schoolteachers made just to assist us in advancing our lives for the better. They took up these sacrifices because they have a wish to see us receive better education; something that some of them could not have because of circumstances they faced in the past. They were deprived of many opportunities; the right to be free without intimidation.
Once you reach the stage of being a young adult, you are faced with many personal battles, as well as socially constructed issues that pull you back and add to your troubles. Some of the personal issues you are faced with are your dreams, a life partner, finances, and the future. These may seem like easy battles to fight but, combined with the systems that are there to add more problems for the Black child, most of the time falling seems easier than fighting.
Now adding to these issues is the current pandemic; it is easier for one to fall into depression and/or develop anxiety. Yes, most of our parents have and continue to play very important roles in our lives to see us succeed, so one day we can be in positions of leadership and take this country forward. They have always stressed the importance of education. However, we cannot really say the current education system is there to change and equip a young adult to be independent and succeed, but we can all agree that it is there to train and equip young adults to be submissive and work for the system that has and continues to oppress us.
Unfortunately, things have gone wrong for most of us: we never made it in high school, we became dropouts and added to the challenges the youth are facing. Some of us managed to finish and pass high school but we struggle to get financial backing which often hinders our plans to further our studies. That adds to the challenges as well. A young adult sitting at home when there is a scarcity of jobs, given the high levels of unemployment, makes one wonder if there is even a future to consider; if whether the dreams and careers one wanted to venture into will ever come to life. The downside of being young and unemployed due to illiteracy may lead to one to partake in the wrong things, like criminal activities. Sitting at home and doing nothing because we do not have the right qualifications or the necessary skills to match jobs offers is the biggest challenge we are facing as young people.
There are those who are lucky enough to find finances to go to tertiary institutes and study further and thrive in their respective fields and obtain the qualifications they need and become ready to sell their gained knowledge. They send through their CVs to hundreds of employers and sometimes even lose count of the number of CVs they send. Even then the chances of success are slim because the companies will want someone who has experience. In reality, companies mean business; they simply do not have time to train people because they tend to complain that training new people hinders productivity and is time-consuming. In reality, it is unfair to the young adult graduates to be expected to have work experience. This is also a major challenge: to have qualifications but struggle to find a job because you lack work experience.
In conclusion, it is fair to say that being a young adult in South Africa is not an easy thing and if young adults are not careful, their mental wellbeing can suffer a lot more. Hence it is also fair to call upon society to assist young adults and be lenient with them as they fight huge, unknown fights.