The following speech will be delivered in Parliament today by DA Shadow Deputy Minister in the Presidency: Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, Yusuf Cassim MP, during the debate on Youth Day and is under embargo until delivery.
The Democratic Alliance is committed to building One South Africa for all. It is a mission inextricably linked to the socio-economic empowerment of young South Africans, the majority of whom have been dealt a raw deal.
This, fellow South Africans, is a historic mission. As young South Africans, we are not born equal. Far from it. The circumstances of our birth continue to determine the social conditions that we grow up in and the opportunities that we can access. By design of the apartheid regime, if you are white, yours is most likely a life of freedom and opportunity. If you are born black, the reality is entirely different.
Decent healthcare and safety will evade you; you will likely be one of the 55% of grade 1 pupils who never get to write a matric examination. It is of major concern that 41% of students who in 2015 enrolled for Grade 10, did not make it to matric last year. In almost 80% of schools you will be one of the children who would receive an education that is considered among the very worst in the world – an education that will consign you to a lifetime of poverty.
It is no coincidence whatsoever that a black child is still 196 times more likely to grow up in poverty than a white child, that 93% of those in poverty are black South Africans who make up 81% of our population, that 30.1% of black South Africans are unemployed compared to 6.9% of white South Africans and white households on average earn almost five times more than black households.
According to a Stats SA report, the first 1 000 days in a child’s life could hold the key to unlocking his/her life-long potential. “By the age of five, almost 90% of a child’s brain will be developed. These are the formative years where factors such as adequate healthcare, good nutrition, good quality childcare and nurturing, a clean and safe environment, early learning and stimulation will, to a large extent, influence his/ her future as an adult,” the report said.
It also states that the development of a child begins as early as the start of a woman’s pregnancy with good nutrition and medical care for the mother being essential in order for her to deliver a healthy child.
With a history of separate development, building one South Africa for all starts with ensuring that every child, from their conception, has the same opportunity to succeed. The advancement of socio-economic empowerment for those dealt a raw deal is not a zero-sum game.
It does not necessitate the disadvantaging of one race in order to advantage another. What is needed are stable, well run governments focused on delivering world class social necessities to South Africans deprived of them and ensuring equality of opportunity. This is how one goes about building a fair society.
A pregnant mother must have access to the necessary nutrition and medical care so as to not disadvantage her child even before birth.
She should then have access to a child support grant, at the very least in line with the child poverty line, as was proposed by the DA and rejected by the ANC in the appropriations committee, so as not to stunt her child’s development.
Her community should be safe and clean, backed by a competent local government, unlike the over 60% of municipalities described as dysfunctional by the Auditor-General.
Her child should have access to a school with decent infrastructure, a reality not helped by the ANC government cutting the school infrastructure budget by R7.2 billion. The school should have teachers with the necessary qualifications, who are held accountable through competency tests and a national education inspectorate.
The same child should go through schooling on the same footing as every other child, in a school disincentivised from culling with the prospect of matriculating and accessing a free year of skills training as proposed by the DA.
He or she should then be able to access higher education whether they can afford it or not or use their skill to gain employment or start a business backed by government-subsidised mentorship and start-up capital facilitated through an opportunity centre.
Fellow South Africans, the struggle for a fair society, one where every child has equality of opportunity in one South Africa for all is a struggle that will make or break our nation. There is an African proverb that reads: A child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth. I put it to you that every child born into a raw deal undermines the very essence of our freedom and democracy.