As a young person born and raised in South Africa, I have observed and experienced some of the challenges children and young people face. I believe that when we mention ‘challenges,' we must focus on children’s ability to fulfill their rights because every young person, or an adult today, was once a child.
South Africa, like many countries, has limited opportunities for youth inclusion in governmental institutions, and the roots of the problem stem from childhood. If children are encouraged and supported to become leaders from a young age, they'd be ready to think through social issues and find solutions as they grow up.
The majority of our leaders do not recognize all the challenges faced by young people on a day-to-day basis, such as unemployment, student debts, and the impact of COVID-19. That’s why U-Report is such an important tool. It enables children and young people across South Africa to share their opinions and views on critical issues, from mental health to vaccines and climate.
COVID-19 is affecting children and young people differently. Remote learning has been a challenge for many, particularly the most vulnerable who don’t have regular access to all the tools and data needed. The digital transition is still too expensive and difficult to access for many.
Unemployment has also skyrocketed due to the instability that COVID-19 has brought to many companies. Young people have lost work, and unemployed people are not getting their jobs back. The lockdowns and loss of household income also stop small businesses from flourishing, and in turn, families are affected. Innovative skills need to be developed to tackle challenges that existed before COVID and those that have arisen since the pandemic.
On a more hopeful note, young people are slowly but surely adapting to the new digital world, and more interactive apps are being developed to keep people connected globally and nationally. We are becoming closer to one another with the click of a button; U-Report is one expression of that. Regardless of the challenges the pandemic brought, it also brought new digital ideas that I think will ultimately help young people to have their voices heard whilst positively engaging people across the country and the globe.
Credit: Ofentse Modubu, U-Reporter South Africa