Youth struggle with education, gangs

Youth Cafe members, from left, Aqeel Jansen, Dawood Cupido, Sergio Pearce, Masood Philander and Edson Classen, who are part of courses in the RLabs programme which empowers the youth.

Youth Day, which is marked tomorrow, Thursday June 16, commemorates the contribution of the youth of 1976 to the liberation struggle and their fight for the rights that young people enjoy today. But while the struggle for freedom and better education has brought about significant change, some of today’s youth still feel that they received the short end of the stick.

Sergio Pearce, 20, of Hanover Park, who is a member of the RLabs youth programme, feels there are different challenges facing the youth today.

“Gangsterism and better education are some of those struggles,” he said, adding that gangsterism is rife in poor areas, and is a direct result of apartheid.

Mr Pearce, who attended Spes Bona High School and then Crystal High School, dropped out of school in Grade 10 because of the gang war in his community. He had joined a gang at the age of nine, and could not attend school because he could not walk on rival turf.

He said when he was at school, teachers had told him that he wasn’t good enough. “Back then, education may have not been important, but today it is a need. If you look outside, you will see all the negativity, but education helps you see through it and helps you succeed.”

Kewtown resident Naomi Antonich, who was living in Bonteheuwel during the 1976 student riots, however, said children would not be sucked into violence and crime if parents strictly enforced discipline.

While she was only a young girl at the time of the uprising, she recalls it was a very scary time. The area, she said, “looked like a war zone”.

”The Casspirs pulled up in front of our house, and the helicopters were circling. Children were running around because we were sent home from school, and we had to stay home for our safety.”

Ms Antonich and her sisters, Monica and Eileen Davids, did not finish school, partly because of the anti-apartheid protest action.

However, Ms Antonich said, she had raised her children with the same discipline her parents had raised her with.

She said her son wanted to drop out of school, but she insisted he finish his schooling. “Now, he passed matric with flying colours,” she told Athlone News.

She said that, in her day, youth had respect for all adults in the community, and mothers would not protect their children if they did wrong or were disrespectful.

“Even the gangsters would stop fighting to help an adult carry her groceries home. Now, they don’t care who gets hurt in their wars.”

Mr Pearce feels that where children grow up and what they are exposed to plays a huge role in the people they become.

“A lot of us do want to get out, but they look for role models, and gangsters will give you anything you want, to suck you in. I was lucky.”

He said those who live in “better areas” have more chance of being successful because they have access to better schools and resources.