Richard Dobson & Tasmi Quazi
The commemoration of Youth month in South Africa is anchored around the 16 June 1976 Soweto uprising. On this ground-breaking day, a series of protests led by nearly 20, 000 high school students was catalysed, against marginalised education and the introduction of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in local schools by the then apartheid government. Sadly, many young lives were lost, but not forgotten. As Youth month draws to an end, Asiye eTafuleni (AeT) has had the privilege of reflecting on the significance of this month through the extraordinary contributions of youth in its work.
Unlike the common prejudices of the general apathy amongst the youth, AeT in fact has seen a shift from the youth protest years against marginalised education to the current context in which youth are increasingly engaging key social challenges. These youth responses have been diverse and in some cases, grown beyond the initial sacrifices. Rather inspirationally, these young people have chosen to dig deeper and respond personally.
A particularly poignant account is that of social work students from the Bright Site Project who have partnered with AeT in providing social support services to informal recyclers of the Imagine Durban Informal Recycling Project. This has been integrated as part of the students’ in-service learning for their academic curricula.
A Recycler Leader from the Project, Maria Vilakazi, tragically lost her last remaining child of six to illness, consequently with three grandchildren to support as the sole bread winner. While Maria was tending to the funeral arrangements, the social work students went beyond their academic obligations, by rolling up their sleeves and sorting Maria’s cardboard recyclables for her. This was so that the formal businesses did not feel the pinch of her absence with the mounting cardboard waste. More importantly, it ensured that her income flow remained relatively stable for these few days. Their volunteerism motivated other informal recyclers in the group, AeT staff members, members of the public and City officials to also provide support to Maria in this way.
Furthermore, other forms of academic contributions have included a number of successful and widely disseminated dissertations written by local and international students emphasising the development needs of the informal economy¹. This interest has come from diverse disciplines such as; law, health, development studies, built environment, economics, leadership, communications and branding, and tourism. Moreover, it has included the visits of over 2000 university and high school learners to the Markets of Warwick Project since 2011, that have come to learn about the informal economy.
However, youth involvement in AeT has not just been from an academic perspective but also an engagement with the informal economy as an emerging area of work amongst young professionals. This has been observable through the keen interest of young people in AeT’s internship programme from the informal trading community and academic sector alike. A rewarding outcome of this has been that AeT’s Research Officer, Tasmi Quazi, was selected as one of 2013’s Top 200 Young South Africans, all recognised for their “talent, dreams and drive” within their respective careers.
This month has hence highlighted that informality has become a relevant area of service and work within a rewarding career in development – beyond just an area of study. The range of youth involvement has affirmed AeT’s role in stimulating interdisciplinary collaboration towards validation and benefit of informal work.
¹ Links to dissertations and research papers below will be updated on an on-going basis:
Noah Jay. 2013. “Responding To Proposed Legislation: A Case Study of Asiye Etafuleni’s Response to the “2013 Licensing of Businesses Bill”, School for International Training, South Africa: Social and Political Transformation.
Dennis-Lee Stols. 2012. “Insurgency as an Influence of Socially Responsive Urban Development”, School of Architecture, University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Tasmi Quazi. 2011. “Municipal Approaches to Incorporating the Informal Economy into the Urban Fabric: A Case Study of Msunduzi Local Municipality and Hibiscus Coast Municipality”, School of Development Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal.