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SA focusing on youth development

National Youth Development Director at the DPME, Dr Bernice Hlagala.

Cabinet recently approved the Monitoring and Evaluation Framework for the National Youth Policy (NYP) 2015-2020 which provides for accountability and efficiency in the achievement of the NYP objectives.

The NYP is government’s youth development strategy and aims to improve performance and en- hance service delivery, particularly of programmes for the youth.

There is a global drive for youth ministries to develop youth policies. The Department of Planning,

Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) is entrusted with spearheading the development and implementation of South Africa’s youth policy.

PSM spoke to the National Youth Development Director at the DPME, Dr Bernice Hlagala, about developments regarding the policy.

“We are excited to have a Monitoring and Evaluation Framework because it provides for high-level indicators on youth development,” she said. The Monitoring and Evaluation Framework was approved by Cabinet in April.

Credible and reliable information

This means that various stakeholders will be required to report against the set indicators that are contained within the framework which could improve both consistency in reporting.

“It will also help to ensure that we get credible and reliable informa- tion from various stakeholders,” said Hlagala.

She added that the department has established national, provincial and local youth coordinating forums which are responsible for joint planning on youth development and ensuring that reports work in conjunction with the set national priorities.

The department’s first youth policy covered the 2009–2014 term and has since been reviewed in order to develop the 2015–2020 plan which Cabinet signed off three years ago.

Key priorities

The NYP 2015-2020 has five key priorities:

• Education, skills and second chances.

• Economic participation and transformation.

• Health and combating sub- stance abuse.

• Social cohesion and nation building.

• Effective and responsive youth development machinery.

Hlagala said there have been many successes in achieving key priorities. On education, skills and second chances, she said one of the key successes is the improvement in the enrolment of young people in educational institutions.

“Government has shown commit- ment to ensuring the increase in access to education, especially the higher education sector,” she said, alluding to the implementation of free higher education for the poor. “There is also the articulation policy that has been approved, which enables young people to move between different learning institutions,” she added.

With regard to economic par- ticipation and transformation, Hlagala said government is using the Employment Youth Accord to make stakeholders commit to youth development by ensuring that they create jobs for young people.

“On health and combating substance abuse, we have the Adolescent Friendly Health Service initiative for young people,” she said.

“On social cohesion and nation building, we have been able to develop the National Youth Service Framework which we still have to implement,” she added. On effective and responsive youth development machinery, government has the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) as an institution responsible for youth development.

Joining hands to uplift the youth

The implementation of the NYP does not come without challenges. One of the pressing concerns has been the private sector’s commitment to job creation.

“This is a sore point for us be- cause young people need jobs, but then you find that although there is the Youth Employment Accord we are still not delivering on targets that have been set,” she said.

“Youth development is not the responsibility of government alone, it is a joint venture among differ- ent sectors. It is very important that there is collaboration between government, private sector and civil society on youth development,” Hlagala added.

Hlagala said youth development can only be attained if sectors plan jointly and all invest in initiatives that have maximum impact on the lives of the youth.

“To ensure that there is sustain- ability of interventions, we need to make sure that young people are brought on board and are not only recipients of services. It is only when we approach young people from a strong base that they will be able to contribute to their own develop- ment,” she added.

Hlagala said that the youth of South Africa are drawn into the consultative process when policies that affect them are developed.

She added that sustainability can only happen if young people take full ownership of the programmes that are intended to improve their lives.

While resources have been earmarked for youth development, a lack of coordinated planning often means that they are not channelled to where they are most needed.

But with key indicators identified in the Monitoring and Evaluation Framework, all stakeholders will be able to focus on them and help the department come up with measurable achievements.

Focus on outcomes

According to Hlagala, there needs to be a change in how outputs are monitored and measured.

“For instance, government offers internships to young people. The focus becomes the number of interns who were trained, which is not adequate. We should be talking about the number of young people who received employment after completion of internship programmes because the aim is not only to train them but to place them in sustainable jobs after training,” she said.

“Generally, many people who are employed are old, and insufficient young people enter the job market. That is a concern because there is no succession plan for future lead- ers of our country. If young people remain on the periphery and do not become part of the economic

mainstream, we are going to suffer as a country,” she added.

Government is not only relying on the private sector to help create jobs but is also urging young people to start businesses. One of the department’s major stakeholders is the NYDA but it also works with national government departments as they are responsible for mainstreaming youth devel- opment with their sectoral policies and programmes.

“Outside of government we work with civil society organisations through their umbrella, the South African Youth Council. We also work with organised business and organised labour, and directly with young people,” Hlagala added.

Building international bridges for youth

The department has bilateral engagements with international stakeholders in the youth development sectors, and also works with multilateral organisations such as the Commonwealth and the United Nations, African Union, and the Southern African Development Community.

To demonstrate efforts in recognising youth workers as professionals, the department has held two international conferences on youth work, collaborating with the University of South Africa.

“Youth work is recognised as a profession in other countries, and that is one thing we have learnt. We have also learnt how the youth sector is organised through national youth councils and that is why we are also working towards strengthening our National Youth Council in South Africa. If young people are not organised, it is difficult to get their ideas represented,” she said.

Although government has been successful in developing policies and strategies that address the development of the youth, Hlagala said there are still some challenges in successfully implementing the NYP and other youth programmes because of a lack of resources and capacity. It is for these reasons that the future and development of the country’s youth will take a joint effort from government, the private sector, civil society and the youth themselves.

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