Youth Summer SchoolS&T recently organised a Youth Summer School at Rhodes
University on behalf of the International Sociological Associationís
"Sociology of Youth" committee, of which David Everatt is Vice-President
for sub-Saharan Africa. S&T Research Manager Jowie Mulaudzi,
who helped organise the workshop, reports on what happened.
The summer school was held at Rhodes University and hosted by
the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) between the
25th and 29th April 2000, and supported by a grant from the Royal
Netherlands Embassy. Participants came from Belgium, Botswana, the
United Kingdom, China, Namibia, Mozambique, the Russian Federation,
Slovakia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, and represented three critical
areas of youth development:
- policy-makers and implementers,
- practitioners, and
Together, the participants reflected on the experiences of young
people under various systems and stages of transition in their countries
and regions in the last two decades. These span young peopleís experiences
of after various forms of authoritarianism - apartheid, communism,
colonialism, military dictatorship and, some argued, Thatcherism.
Discussions covered issues of war and conflict, repressive and oppressive
systems and their relation to modernising society. Similarities
and differences in the experiences of young people and those of
the critical role players emerged.
- Youth development, policies and programmes in a modernising
society like China seem to be defined to a large extent by the
social problems of the "only-child", a result of Chinaís one child
population policy. Youth activists in the United Kingdom focus
their energies to drive a meaningful youth development agenda
in a society where young people are faced with the highest rates
of unemployment for its young people.
- Yet young people and society in post-communism societies of
the Slovak Republic and Russia grapple mainly with "generation-gap"
issues magnified by life experiences that are defined by glaringly
different social values, norms and systems. In post apartheid
Namibia and South Africa, young people who had been well organised
in the fight against the repressive and oppressive system, suddenly
had to contend with and even redefine their social roles, find
a place for themselves in "normal" society amidst limited economic
- Post war Zimbabwean and Mozambican youth are seen as part of
a broader community which is facing the challenges of reconstruction
and development. There seem to be little scope for defining youth
development as a specific area of focus beyond the huge development
needs of society as a whole.
Accordingly, the experiences of young people and therefore policies,
programmes and development agenda seemed to be determined by historical
processes that a country went through as well as current socio-economic
and political contexts. Participants agreed that whilst such processes
and contexts translate into peculiar problems and challenges, there were
common issues and problems attributable to the challenges presented to
young people in the various stages of the path of transiting into adulthood.
The lack of or limited youth research activities especially in Southern
Africa, the high and increasing rates of unemployment HIV infections amongst
young people were some of the manifestations of uneasy transitions for
young people. Measures taken by societies to define and support young
people through the transition or intervene where problems exist were identified
as important in developing an environment supportive of positive pathways
for young people. In this regard it was interesting to note the concept
of "intergenerational contract".A social contract where the younger generation
supports the older generation by contributing to retirement schemes, it
can potentially be used by young people could leverage the support of
the older generation beyond the seeming lip service paid to youth development.
In seeking common ways of dealing with youth development in a holistic
manner, attention was placed on the role of policy makers, practitioners
and researchers. Focusing on common areas, discussions were held to seek
criteria for holistic, organic youth development that looks at young people
in an integrated manner. A lot more questions were raised than answered
in the short period that participants had to get to know each other, the
situation in their countries and come up with solutions.
Participants agreed on a need for more focused, co-ordinated and meaningful
interaction between policy-makers, practitioners and researchers in driving
the youth development agenda in their respective focus areas, countries
and regions. Beyond this, there was agreement on the need to share experiences
and define common projects that would be of mutual benefit to the countries
A concrete proposal and outcome of the summer school, was the formation
of a Southern Africa Chapter of Research Committee 34 which should look
at co-ordinating research efforts in Southern Africa, foster regional
co-operation as well as international links. S&T will play a co-ordinating
role in getting this off the ground, in preparation for the 2002 ISA Congress
in Australia, and then four years later in South Africa.