Youth and the Responsibility of 21st Century ‘Elders’

Parents across the world are in angst over the disruption in education programmes during the COVID 19 pandemic. While a number of online resources are available to the more privileged scholars who have access to computers and internet connections, the greater population of youth find themselves trailing behind in their educational development.

Many schools have reopened and yet the threat of having to close again looms with the rapid and increased spread of the virus. Parents, older siblings and even grandparents have had to step up and support the younger generationals among them in attempts to maintain a base level learning curriculum, while the gap widens between a stable, structured education and one derailed by both time lost, and a reduction in access to resources. In light of this situation, the most valuable way the older generation; young adults, parents and professionals, can support youth is by sharing their knowledge, and teaching outside of the classroom. This seems to be the time for both millenials and baby boomers to step up and support the youth in their communities. Either by suggesting and encouraging smaller, COVID 19 safe study groups between learners or offering to host small skills development workshops.

CCFA believes that skills development is essential to individual growth in terms of self confidence, independence and a positive contribution to society. Through understanding the ripple effect of the positive impact that one individual’s actions can have on a community, society and even the environment, mountains of motivation and desire to invest in people from a young age are formed. Earlier this year, CCFA sponsored 20 youth to complete their Siyazenzela Life and Employability Skills programme through their partner, Wilderness Foundation Africa, because we understand the positive impact that the trainee youths will have on conserving wildlife and wilderness areas in the future, once equipped with both the knowledge and skills to implement change. The top three students from the course were also afforded the opportunity, through CCFA,  to complete the Ulovane Field Guide Training just before lockdown and are now qualified field guides. While the graduates haven’t been able to put their skills to use out in the field over the past few months, we believe that the experiences and knowledge  gained through the course has equipped them to safely and productively navigate their way through the current threats posed by the pandemic.

Anthony Vaaltyn, one of the newly qualified guides remains motivated to continue with his career out in the field, once the game parks have reopened again. He says he has gained more confidence and his desire to work at the best game reserves or parks in South Africa has only strengthened. Anthony feels that now more than ever, he can make a difference through this purposeful work. Both Anthony and fellow scholar Simamkele Majali, have expressed their wishes to help less fortunate youths in their communities, especially women, who they feel should be presented with more opportunities to work as field guides, as there are currently very few women in these roles.

Siyazenzela Life Skills Programme tutor, Ntobeko Ngcala, also feels that the course has equipped the students to better manage the effects of COVID 19 on their personal lives, within their communities and environments. Ntobeko says he’s grateful for the opportunity to “bridge humanity and nature, both for personal growth and ecological restoration purposes.” The course takes students on hiking trails where they come face to face with both the wilderness and one’s own inner nature; relearning self identity, thus developing good relationship building skills and work ethic.

We’d like to propose that as ‘elders’ and professional leaders in our communities, we begin to investigate creative alternative avenues for youth upliftment, growth and skills development, especially while the traditional education systems are being placed under restrictions and stress. Together, may we raise awareness around the need to support future generations and thus the way in which they positively influence society and the preservation of our wildlife and natural resources.