Photo of Roshen Moosa. Local activist and founder of the NPO Community Succeeders
Corruption, unemployment and poor education have been significant factors contributing to poverty and high crime rates in impoverished South African communities.
Often, blame is placed on the youth, who are most vulnerable in today’s society. Yet, we forget about South Africa’s chequered past. The apartheid government institutionalised racism and discrimination in all aspects of life, including education. They provided non-whites with below-par education systems to limit them to low-income sectors.
Unsurprisingly, today, the worst communities affected by poverty and unemployment are African, Colored and Indian. This phenomenon, in turn, contributes to the unemployment and crime rate, illegal substance abuse and violence perpetuated in communities such as Eldorado Park, a predominantly coloured area located South of Johannesburg.
In 2021, South Africa recorded its highest-ever unemployment at 35.3%, much higher when inactive unemployment is factored in. Then we are looking at nearly half the population in South Africa.
According to South Africa’s statistics, the youth are the most vulnerable to unemployment. There are 10 million people aged 15-24 in South Africa. Out of the 10 million, 2.5 million people are employed or unemployed. The rest are discouraged from seeking employment, which means over 7 million young adults stagnate in South Africa.
Substance Abuse in Eldorado Park
Recently community members in Eldorado Park have taken to protesting the lack of law enforcement activity in the area.
In response, Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi vowed to ramp up efforts to combat crime by increasing police presence in the community and supplying law enforcement with helicopters and drones. Promises that many fear will not become a reality.
Eldorado Park has been a community afflicted with poverty and crime, such as theft, hijackings, gangsterism and drugs. Drugs, most of all, have been a significant challenge in the community. All of which Roshen Moosa, a local activist and founder of the NPO Community Succeeders, attributes to youth stagnation.
Moosa said, “When it comes to the drugs in Eldorado Park, I’m sure the rate of drug addicts is at its highest. It affects the unemployment rate, where each household has somebody affected with an addiction problem. Though the person tries to get themselves out, it’s not going to end because it’s bigger than what we think it is.”
In recent years drugs have become synonymous with Eldorado Park. Its presence in the community only exacerbates the area’s high unemployment and poverty rate. Substance abuse is a means to an end, to sell or use. Idle hands do the devil’s work, in this case, there is no exception. “There are no jobs to keep our people occupied”, said Moosa.
Impact of Dysfunctional Schools
Business Tech reported 80% of South African schools have a shortage of resources and are dysfunctional, with most buildings dilapidated and lacking upkeep. Most of these schools are located in African and Colored communities.
The dysfunctionality of schools in surrounding communities resulted in an influx of students attending ones in Eldorado Park. This has led to overcrowding in classrooms, using up resources and funds intended for students in the area.
As specified by Probert, a former matriculant in Eldorado Park, the influx of outside students created friction amongst the learners, where certain cliques openly disliked each other.
“It impacted primary school learners the most. Because now they had to make way for outside students already enrolled to attend high school. It forced them to find schools outside the area and hope that they would take them, whereas the outside students could’ve gone to the schools in their communities”.
This, in turn, placed more financial pressure on parents and caregivers. This resulted in premature exits because, financially, it was not possible to send their children to other schools in different areas.
In Benjamin’s opinion, a resident of Eldorado Park, “Some parents can’t afford to send their children to schools outside of Eldos. Some people can send their kids, but at the end of the day, it puts a hole in their pockets”.
“If They’re Going to Make It”
Benjamin said, “The schools in Eldos are not bad. It all depends on the individuals, the learners themselves. If they’re going to make it or break it”.
It can be argued education offers a fair and equal opportunity for all. And the only difference is the student’s willingness and drive regardless of their circumstances. For some, perhaps, but for the majority, perhaps not.
Many students in Eldorado Park come from low-income, single-parent households. According to Moosa, some students lack family support or financial stability to progress in their schooling.
“You get this ten-year-old boy whose mother cannot afford to pay his fees or even give him something to eat before he goes to school. So, most kids [in similar situations] tend to drop out because there is no support in their family [to continue].”
If they do not drop out, they fall behind in the classroom. However, the literacy program of Community Succeeders aims to help bridge the gap and to give primary and high school students the help and support they need.
Moosa said, “Most students find it hard to understand the examination paper … We picked up that they can read but not with understanding. Others can’t read, but they are in high school, or their reading level is poor for the grade they are in”.
In an article published by Nic Spaull, he mentions most students do not attain the literacy and numeracy skills required in earlier grades. Resulting in learning deficits as they are pushed through to the next phase, only to underperform in grade 12.
In her observations and experiences, Williams, a private school educator, said the government’s mark expectation hinders learners. “The way the curriculum has been outlined, it basically sets children up for failure … Because the standard necessary to pass is so low they are unable to make it in matric … As the grades get higher, the children become despondent in their schooling. As they progress, their marks continuously get lower and lower due to them not grasping lessons from previous years”.
Sure, with a pass rate of 30%, students can gain their NQF level 5 certificate. However, Spaull continues to state students from impoverished socioeconomic backgrounds who attend dysfunctional schools have little to no chance of accessing tertiary-level institutions.
Moreover, it inhibits their chances of being selected as the best candidate for certain company positions. These students often fill the unemployment ranks and enter informal sectors, low-skilled minimum wage jobs, and manual labour.
Unemployment is the Root of All Evil
Considering all these aspects, one can see the domino’s adverse effects as each fall impacts the proceeding block.
From a young age, these factors stunt most of the youth in Eldorado Park while the few manage to break away. And even then, their education level or lack thereof, makes for a difficult road ahead.
Ordinarily, the youth would be accused of being lazy and uninterested. But when matriculants are seeking employment, lacking the five-year experience required for entry-level jobs, or being a few percentages short of acceptance at tertiary institutions, one can empathise with their despair and discouragement.
Sadly, youth stagnation is dangerous to many aspects of society. For instance, it opposes anti-drug movements as more and more young people are looking to sell cannabis to gain an income. They are drawn to criminal activities because the right way has often impeded their progress. Not only that, but youth unemployment also affects the GDP growth of the country.
Inequality of education, the dysfunctionality of schools, and lack of resources and employment opportunities is a significant disservice to the youth. And only once it is rectified will we see a decrease in statistics and issues affecting Eldorado Park and other communities in similar circumstances.