At a time when youth wage subsidies, escalating unemployment among the young, teen pregnancies, ailing education systems and substance abuse dominate headlines relating to South Africa’s youth, The Big Issue’s Youth Day edition shows there’s still a huge amount of positive news about the kids of 2012.
“That’s not to say there aren’t enormous problems plaguing South African youth or that these issues are ignored in this special edition,” said editor, Melany Bendix. “But we chose to primarily use this edition to give both our teen and adult readers a deeper and more balanced insight into youth issues and to put the spotlight on some of the many young people making meaningful change.”
One of the many inspiring youths featured is Monde Sitole, a 21-year-old alpinist from Khayelitsha, who plans to conquer seven of the world’s highest peaks within the next four years. It’s not a self-serving dream, though. As Sitole puts it, his expedition is “a metaphor for young people; it is there to inspire that latent, intrinsic potential in them to dare to dream.”
The attention then turns to two young activists carrying the flame of ’76: Tarisai Mchuchu Rashidi, who works tirelessly to rehabilitate youth offenders, and Tinashe Njanji, who’s on a mission to stamp out xenophobia.
A pioneering surf programme, Waves for Change, which has a unique model using surfing as a platform for HIV prevention and life skills education, is then featured as the Agent of Change.
The Big Issue also partnered with two youth media organisations, Live Mag and the Umuzi Photo Club, for additional content.
“Instead of us old timers in the editorial office reporting on what we think the youth of today think, we thought it was important to bring some real youth voices into the mix,” explained Bendix.
Journalists from Live Mag — a magazine for youth, created by youth — contributed several pieces for the edition and hit the streets to ask their peers whether they still blame apartheid for their problems.
The Umuzi Photo Club, a youth development organisation which teaches high school learners to use their lenses as a form of activism, contributed a selection of images from three projects focusing on issues youth face today: teenage pregnancy, poor service delivery and school drop-outs.
Negative influences exposed
While much of the edition is a positive reflection of the youth of today, there are also hard-hitting exposés on the negative influences they face.
The first is on the increase in steroid use among schoolboys, some of whom suffer from “bigorexia”. The investigation shows that, contrary to popular belief, “roids” abuse is not restricted to school sports players.
The second is an exposé on a right-wing bootcamp outside of Johannesburg, which turns young white Afrikaans boys from the born-free generation into indoctrinated racists over nine days.
“While this exposé is both tragic and shocking, we felt it is an important and very relevant story to run in the Youth Day edition,” said Bendix. “It is an excellent piece of journalism accompanied by phenomenal images, which formed part of this year’s World Press Photo Multimedia Award winning Afrikaner Blood production.”
In another coup for The Big Issue, acclaimed resistance artist Manfred Zylla’s work features on the cover. Zylla adapted a print from his famed Boys from the Border series specifically to illustrate the Afrikaner Blood cover story.
“When we decided to make this feature the cover story, Zylla was automatically top of the list but we thought it was unlikely we’d be able to rope him in. To our surprise, and much to our delight, it took one phone call and a short meeting before he, too, was gripped by the project and immediately agreed,” said Bendix. “It’s a great privilege to have such a well respected resistance artist at the forefront of this special edition — and fitting, too.”
The Youth Day edition is on sale for just R18 from vendors in and around Cape Town and some parts of Johannesburg. As an added bonus, readers are offered the chance of winning a R43 000 trip to Europe for two with Busabout. Full details in the magazine and on the website www.bigissue.org.za.