He said young people must work hard to reach for their dreams.
Premier Mchunu, who was speaking in Newcastle during a visit to the Asiphephe Road memorial site erected in memory of 31 learners and four adults who were killed in a road accident involving a truck and a bus in April 1998, said the freedom of today is owed to the bravery of the youth of 1976.
“Today we celebrate the 40th anniversary of June 16 against the background of the 52nd anniversary of the Rivonia Trial Verdict.
“We celebrate these landmarks in our history not because they were happy events. We do so because they represented turning points in the struggle for freedom and democracy,” said Premier Mchunu.
He said the generation of today’s youth must ask themselves how they can deepen democracy and expand opportunities to the previously disadvantaged communities that continue to be mired in poverty, inequality and unemployment.
Premier Mchunu said he will ensure that government programmes on skills and youth development are accessed by young people throughout the province.
Starting from early childhood development, the Premier said there has been a strong focus on scarce skills such as engineering, science and technology, accounting, information technology, agriculture, health and social services.
“Over the past five years, the provincial government has spent more than R1.5 billion on bursaries awarded to needy students. The number of students that have benefited from the bursary programme over the past five years is more than 7 000,” said Premier Mchunu.
There were more than 2 000 students from poor families who benefitted from the financial support provided by the provincial government at a cost of more than R54 million since 2013.
Youth must fight HIV
As the International Aids Conference draws near, Premier Mchunu called upon young people to be part of activities aimed at fighting HIV and Aids.
“We are encouraging you to be involved in sports and other programmes that will ensure behavioural change,” he said.
South Africa will from 18 to 22 July host the 21st International Aids Conference, which returns to South Africa after 16 years. The conference was first held on African soil back in 2000.
Premier Mchunu said the provincial government was extremely concerned about the high rate of HIV infection, especially among young girls between the ages of 15 and 24.
“It is for this reason that the provincial government is investing towards health education and other youth empowerment programmes. There is great hope that with all the opportunities that have been made available by this democratic government, the youth of today will rise to the occasion.”