SPU Youth Month Public Lecture calls on youth to push boundaries in creating a better tomorrow

This year marks the 46th anniversary of the 16 June 1976 Soweto uprising, and as part of the national commemoration of this landmark day Sol Plaatje University (SPU) hosted its annual Youth Month Public Lecture on 24 June 2022. The keynote address, ‘Youth 4.0: Hope and resilience in an increasingly despondent world’, was presented by Professor Jesmael Mataga, SPU Associate Professor: Heritage and Museum Studies.

The lecture – a hybrid event with both in-person and online attendance – was opened by Ms Refilwe Sehere, a first-year BCom Accounting student at SPU. She said today’s youth should use their own lived experience as well as the past experiences of the youth of 1976 to create, cultivate, and promote a sustainable livelihood for tomorrow. “I believe that as youth we have reached a peak where we are taking ownership and responsibility to advance and pursue our goals to ensure that we develop a sustainable livelihood not only for ourselves but our community at large,” she said.

Professor Mataga’s keynote address invoked a message of inspiration, hope and resilience for the youth. He used lyrics from South African choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo to talk about the intergenerational conflicts between the young and old, and the musical Sarafina to draw on anecdotes and lessons gained. “Rather than sounding like a professor, I deliberately chose to sound like an ordinary middle-aged individual having a ‘convo’ with the youth, as it’s your day/month! To listen, reflect, provoke, and daydream. In this regard, what I look forward to more is to hear your voices, experiences – and suggestions!” he said.

Prof Mataga also addressed the elephants in the room, namely unemployment and the ever-changing world of work. Despite these challenges, he reflected on the current statistics of student enrolment at SPU and praised young women for taking the mantle, reiterating that “Educating a woman is educating a nation”.

He reminded the youth to seize moments of resilience amidst an environment of economic, social and political despair, and asked them to keep looking beyond the horizon – “beyond the confines of villages and artificial borders” – and to continue embracing the challenges and opportunities presented to them that will enable them to create a better tomorrow. “Honour and respect your teachers, professors, older politicians – but always seek your own knowledge, and push the envelope.”

The respondent, Junior Lecturer and Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) coordinator Mr Fattinald Rangongo, saw the lecture befitting as a challenge to the youth. He called upon young people to be sensitive towards others and to pay attention to their own mental health. Encouraged by the potential of the youth, Mr Rangongo challenged them to be innovative, unbiased, and critical in their pursuit of being active citizens who solve problems and find solutions to society’s problems. He also challenged the youth to be ethical in all their endeavours. 

Mr Kennedy Ndebele, Deputy President of the SPU Student Representative Council, called upon his peers, SPU alumni, and the youth of the country to take it upon themselves to create change in all facets of life, and to help enrich the lives of others.

Ms Sehere closed the event with a reminder that even as the youth celebrates the past and acknowledges the difficulties they face, their aim should be to use the past as a driver that enables them to create a better future. “We also extend our heartfelt thanks to the rest of the speakers and our MC who formed part of the programme today, who reminded us that our actions today have a direct impact on our livelihood tomorrow. The future begins now!”


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