It’s an incredibly tough time to develop self-worth.
I am nobody’s mother but after four months of working with teens- the most solid advice I can offer parents is to build their child’s confidence. It unlocks the ability to trust one’s judgement but beyond that, I believe it influences the ability to make positive choices.
In South Africa, “Of 100 pupils that start school, only 50 will make it to Grade 12, 40 will pass, and only 12 will qualify for university” (Nicholas Spaull 2013:3). Over the past 20 years, international tests reveal that South Africa has the worst education system of all middle-income countries. The current education system is synonymous with poor quality schooling at the primary and secondary level. It has severely limited the youth’s capacity to gain further training and employment opportunities. As a result South Africa faces high youth and adult unemployment rates. In the recent Quarterly Labour Force Survey, the results for Q1 of 2015 show that the working age population is 35.8 million. Of those, 15.5 million people are employed, 5.5 million are unemployed and 14.8 million are not economically active (Statistics South Africa 2015).
So it comes as no surprise that I have an inbox full of pressing questions from young people and erroneous dilemmas beyond their age:
- “i told my partner that i dont want to be preg or get any desease so we used a condom and now i think im preg so i dont want the baby.”
- “I have 2 kids and the father does not support them- what can I do?”
- “I have a boyfriend who’s getting married next year wth mother of his children.he don’t want to break up with me n if thngs don’t go to plan he blame me for it.”
- “i went for hiv test and they came negetive so i wnt to knw are there any posibilities that they might be positive if my partner was positive?”
- “…we met in high school in 2012 and completed our matric in 2013. Since the baby was born he has never took any responsibility and now he keeps cheating me and blaming it on the distance I always forgave him for I don’t want mi baby to grow up without a dad n I love him.”
These are only a few social- ills that are a symptom of depression and insecurity; a vulnerability driven by low self-esteem. Considering the severity of our social, economic and political impediments it is a tremendous challenge to change the behaviour of people who may not even be aware that their actions are an indication of a society bereft of emotional and mental wellbeing.
I recently attended a talk hosted by Young Lab Association and Mail & Guardian and the panel included a 23 year old policy developer named Pearl Pillay. I didn’t necessarily agree with her views on youth mobilisation however I absolutely admired the confidence and passion with which she spoke. Imagine living in a country whose development is driven and guided by young people by drawing on their energy, development creativity and skills to create positive change.
Encourage your child to think, read and write every day. Remember to point out the good things, not just the mistakes. Teach your children about decision- making even though popular culture is destroying independent thinking. Do not shy away from talking about their sexual and reproductive health and rights – the confidence to say no or accurately judge a situation may be their only weapon against HIV and unplanned pregnancy. It is a difficult time to be a confident teen but it will never be the right time to be held back by insecurities.