This is according to the university Vice Chancellor and Principal Professor Mandla Makhanya who was speaking at the 2nd Commonwealth Conference on Youth Work 2016, held at the University of South Africa (Unisa), in Pretoria, on Tuesday,
South Africa is hosting the conference which aims to empower youth to become agents of development and peace in their countries, through competence and professionalization of youth work.
Makhanya said youth in many parts of the world face challenges such as limited resources, more especially education, training, employment and other economic development opportunities.
He said in South Africa, government, Unisa, Commonwealth Secretariat and other stakeholders are ensuring that youth work is mainstreamed across all ministries.
Commendable progress has been made in South Africa in advancing youth development, but a lot still has to be done to remedy the situation facing the country’s youth.
The Vice Chancellor said there is a need to ensure that youth development is a feature in South Africa and beyond, because if youth are left at the society’s margins, all in society will be impoverished.
The conference is scheduled to conclude on Thursday and is expected to host about 300 delegates from about 53 member governments from abroad.
It is being held under the theme: “Engaging Youth People in Nation Building – the Youth Workers’ Role”.
The conference will focus on youth work and professional recognition, education and training of youth workers, concepts and practice of youth work, creating collective strength through association for youth work professionals, certification and licensing of youth workers.
Deputy Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Buti Manamela, in delivering the opening remarks at the conference, said youth development determines the future and should be the heartbeat of any developmental agenda.
He said the youth no longer want to be characterised as excluded, forgotten, marginalised or disadvantaged, because of policies that do not prioritise their plight.
“They want changes that open possibilities for them to improve their socio-economic status and quality of life. Regardless of whether they are from developing or developed country, young people are affected by similar problems of marginalisation,” he said.
He said time has come to put youth in the centre of sustainable national development, but this cannot be done without youth workers who play a role to ensure prioritization of youth development.
The Deputy Minister said youth work is seen as a catalyst in the development of youth, guided by the realities facing young people and anchored in the belief that young people are a force for peace, democracy, equality, good governance and poverty eradication.
“This work cannot take place without effective youth development policy, programmatic initiatives, youth development research, and effective youth workers.
“In South Africa, the process of professionalizing youth work started officially in the late 1980s. A Youth Practitioners Advocacy Group, YPAG, was established in 1994, which became later the South African Youth Workers Association.
“The South African Youth Workers Association consulted and collaborated with the Professional Development of Youth Work Consortium to facilitate the professionalization process,” he said.
Commonwealth Secretariat Deputy Secretary-General, Deodat Maharaj, said the world is changing and is changing fast, and if many developing countries do not adjust, they risk being eclipsed in the new world order.
“However, to adjust, to excel and advance human development in this new global disposition we need to leverage the sum total of all resources available to policy makers, the most valuable being human resources,” said Maharaj.
He said 70 percent of Africa’s population is classified as youth.
“Young people are confronted with a range of challenges including high levels of unemployment, lack of access to quality education, rising crime and violence. In many of our member states, youth unemployment is still high,” he said.
He said investing in development of professional youth workers will bring together, at local and national government, professionals with the right skills and competencies to enrich, equip and build a youthful future.