Friday, February 22, 2008

The lowdown on the conference

Very powerful contributions from the various speakers and key people in our Dept of Social Development. It seems, at least in South Africa, that youth development, as profession, is taken serious amongst policymakers. The National Youth Commission, is in the process of drafting a policy on youth development for 2008-2013 and in it, they state that they will, most certainly put in the fact that youth work need to be professionalised and more posts for youth workers need to be created in municipalities,provinces and nationally. These sentiments are echoed by the YDN (Youth development Network) and UYF, but the question remains on the viability.

It was interesting what Vernica Mathebula reported about our conceptualizations of 'youth' and therefore 'youthdevelopment'. In the 70s and 80s, especially aftre 1976, youth was conceptualised as the angry black activist. In white circles it was the troeppie in die army.... diensplig( conscription of young white males to defend South Africa from the totale aanslag, total (communist)onslaught on the borders and in the townships). Youth work was political activism and conscietization, on the one hand and also weerbaarheid and discipline on the other hand. This image shifted in the late 80s toward early 90s towards youth as the 'lost generation' in the early and middle 90s. Now the social workers, with loaded case studies took over, youth are suddenly at risk and need to be institutionalised.
RDP and the post JEP-CASE study of 'Growing up Tough', brought about the youth as an asset-based approach, where youth work became youth development and with the shift in economics towards neo-liberal gear (GEAR), youth development became, economic skills development. Every one want to become the next tycoon, from, the ANC youth league to the young Communists.

The question is where are we now ? There is a gap in the knowledge based economy, where connection is crucial. Are you connected, are you online or not and what does youth work means in the virtual space of MySpace, Facebook and Mxit. This still has to be explored, but its not as if its a postmodernism, indeed as some would say, this is a late modernism and another new phase in capitalism. This is the kind of context in which we need to carve out new ways of being a youth worker, even in postcolonial Africa
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