Commonwealth Correspondent Femi Asu is on the ground in Pretoria, covering the second Commonwealth Conference on Youth Work. He will be posting periodic updates from the event. Follow him on Twitter at asufemi.
The Deputy Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, South Africa, Mr. Buti Manamela, has stressed the need to professionalise youth work across the Commonwealth.
Manamela, in his keynote address at the 2016 Commonwealth Conference on Youth Work in South Africa which started on Tuesday, said youth workers have, over the years, played an important role in addressing the complex and unique problems facing young people.
He said work done by movements such as Salvation Army, Boys Brigade, Young Men’s Christian Association, Girls Guides, and Scouts showed that youth work is possible and can be professionalised.
He said the deliberations that took place during the inaugural CCYW three years ago made it possible for the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government to approve that member counties should facilitate the recognition of youth work as a profession.
The deputy minister said this year’s edition of the conference should pave a way to the next phase by guiding the Commonwealth member countries to agree on a common road map towards the professionalisation of youth work.
“We are all in agreement that youth development determines our future and should be the heartbeat of any developmental agenda.
“This conference takes place when our youth in South Africa and globally are standing up, demanding that their issue be addressed immediately. They want changes that open possibilities for them to improve their socio-economic status and quality of life.”
Regardless of whether they are from developing or developed countries, young people are affected by similar problems of marginalisation and exclusion, Manamela said.
“Youth work is seen as a catalyst in youth development, guided by the realities facing young people and anchored in the belief that young people are a force for peace, democracy, equality, good governance and poverty eradication.
“This work cannot take place without effective youth development policy, programmatic initiatives, youth development research and effective youth workers.”
He emphasised the need for collaboration among young people, youth workers, academics and policymakers in a bid to break down the economic and political marginalisation of young people.
Manamela said, “Already a lot has been done, in the various countries in the Commonwealth, in our country and on our continent to lay down the foundation for the next step, which is to professionalise youth work.
“It is our position, with the Commonwealth community that for youth work to thrive, the following needs to be in place: legislative framework on youth work, unit standards for practice, database of youth workers, offering of youth work qualifications by institutions of higher learning.”
He said, “Young people matter. They continue to make colossal strides in politics, arts, culture, civil society, the private sector and within government.
“Youth development is an essential consideration for our country’s development trajectory. But youth development cannot be taken seriously if youth workers are not taken seriously.”
The deputy minister said in the last decade, the notion of “youth-led development” had taken centre stage, promoting the idea that young people must be at the forefront of youth development.
He faulted the argument in some quarters that there is no need for a youth worker and that youth workers are old people dictating to young people.
“Firstly, youth work has never been and is not about directing young people on what to do. In fact, that is the antithesis of youth work. Youth work is about guiding, facilitating, coaching, providing information, helping navigate, holding hands and assisting but never dictatorial.
“A good youth worker knows that a young person must be central to decision-making for their lives.”
Femi is a journalist currently working for Punch Nigeria Limited. He is the 2015 recipient of the CNN African Journalist of the Year (Economics and Business).
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