Cape Town — Government is to host a week-long National Youth Camp (NYC) for 500 youths aged between 17 and 24 from communities throughout South Africa to provide a forum for dialogue among young people and policy makers.
Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini said in Cape Town on Thursday that the central goal of the camp would be to engage the youth as active and reflective South African citizens. It would also focus on substance abuse, sexual and reproductive health issues, and youth leadership.
The NYC will be held at Die Brug Military Camp in the Free State from 2 - 7 December.
Other goals were to develop positive bonds among young people; promote civic engagement; identify, advance and celebrate youth-led initiatives, seek young people's opinions, and involve young people in the national discussion and debate about the issues affecting them.
"The NYC will also enable us to identify and nurture a new breed of leaders who are in touch with the needs of their communities, while also participating in initiatives that contribute to their own development," said the minister.
Census 2011 had shown that more than a third of South Africa's population was younger than 15, a factor that had resulted in the emergence of what the minister called a youth bulge.
Youth unemployment, she said, continued to be a major development challenge for post-apartheid South Africa. Opportunities had to be created for young people to participate meaningfully in the life of the nation.
"To do that, we must understand the needs and aspirations of this critical generation in order to tap into their ideas and energy. If not, the growing population can contribute to serious social challenges and civil unrest, as witnessed in other areas of the world."
The youth bulge could exert more pressure on the provision of social, educational, health and other social services, especially if the youth group was not properly integrated into national development plans at local, provincial and national levels.
Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who also attended the media briefing, noted the incident in which a Gauteng pupil had allegedly shot and killed another scholar for bullying him, saying there was a lot of anger prevalent in the youth.
"You do need a programme, no matter how short it is, to channel anger into positive energy," she said.
Anger management training would have to be a major part of the courses taught at the NYC if the war against crime, anger and bullying was to be won, she said.
The Department of Defence and Military Veterans was involved in the NYC because it wanted to give the 500 youths a window of opportunity to see "what's out there, what's available in the SANDF" and perhaps in future some of them might consider a career in the armed forces.