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Title"My life in the new South Africa": a youth perspective
AuthorLeggett, Ted
AuthorMoller, Valerie
AuthorRichards, Robin
SubjectQuality of life -- South Africa
Format324 pages
AbstractThe young people of South Africa hold the future of society in their hands. They will become the new leaders who will make or break South Africa"s fledgling democracy. Of course, it is impossible to know how society will fare in the millennium; but knowledge of where the youth think their lives and their country are heading will provide some clues to what the future holds. The research for this book was inspired by the "Monitoring the future" project, a regular survey of young people"s values and aspirations by the Institute of Social Research at the University of Michigan. Our research was informed by recent comprehensive inquiries on the youth conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) Co-operative Research Programme on South African Youth and the research by the Joint Enrichment Programme and the Community Agency for Social Enquiry (CASE). The present study also builds on more focused research on leisure, educational aspirations and quality of life conducted by researchers attached to the University of Natal"s Quality of Life Research Unit. The evidence for the two large-scale inquiries and the quality of life studies was collected before South Africa"s first open general elections. The material presented in this book is about young people who have experience of living under the new democracy. This report may be among the first to inform the newly formed National Youth Commission of young people"s needs and aspirations. Urgently needed for planning and policy formation is a systematic programme of research into the evolving situation of South African youth under the new political dispensation. Until such time as the values and lifestyles of young people are monitored at regular intervals, ad hoc studies such as the one reported here may help to fill the gap. It is hoped that the views of young people expressed in this book will deepen our understanding of young people"s expectations and aspirations for the future. My life in the New South Africa provides a snapshot of society two years after the first open general elections as seen through the lenses of the youth. The book, which was written by the young people themselves, documents contemporary everyday life and hopes and fears for the future as envisaged by the youth. The material was gathered through an innovative research project which aimed to learn how young people see themselves and their society two years into the new democracy. Over 900 of the youth gave descriptions of "my life in the New South Africa" in the first half of 1996 in response to a letter writing competition designed by the Quality of Life Research Unit at the University of Natal. The competition fits the currently fashionable genre of "participatory" research, in which subjects double as analysts of their life situation. Although a fairly recent addition to the South African research repertoire, the participatory method is not unfamiliar to quality of life researchers. For many years, students of quality of life have advocated that ordinary people and not the external experts are the best judges of what makes people"s lives satisfactory or not. Working in this research tradition, the Quality of Life research team at the University of Natal took on the task of shaping a book around the issues addressed by the youth in their letters. The material produced by the letter writing competition was content-analysed by a team of experts and organised in a number of thematic chapters which cover many of the dominant concerns of contemporary youth. Essentially, the youth wrote the script and the researchers did the editing. The mood of the letters is overwhelmingly positive and inspiring for a new democracy intent on overcoming the shortcomings of the past. Energy, youthful optimism and good intentions radiate from the letters. There is no doubt that My life in the New South Africa will provide useful pointers for current policy formation. It is hoped that the contents of this book will also serve as benchmark information against which South African society will be able to measure itself in years to come. The majority of the young people who entered the competition fervently believe, or at least wish to believe, that their hopes for an ideal society in which all South Africans live in harmony will be realised. Their idealism is as refreshing and touching in its naivetĪ­ as it is sobering. The youth who wrote to the Quality of Life research team, boldly outline the challenges that lie ahead for a new democracy. Time will tell if the hopes and fears of contemporary youth can be laid to rest and their dreams for the future fulfilled. South Africa owes it to the next generation that its young people not be disappointed.
PublisherHSRC Publishers