11 March 2013
Chief Executive of the National Youth Development Agency, Mr Steven Ngubeni,
Chief Operations Officer, Ms Magdalene Moonsamy,
Members of the media,
Ladies and gentlemen.
It is with great honour and pride to announce to you that from the 18th to the 20th of March 2013, the South African government will host an international conference on Education and Training of youth workers in Pretoria at the University of South Africa (UNISA) main campus. This will be the first Commonwealth conference and will be held under the theme “Towards Professionalising Youth Work. Education and Training of Youth Workers: Towards the professionalization of Youth Work.” This conference will be geared towards sharing experiences and lessons learnt in order to advance the critical agenda of professionalising youth work across the Commonwealth and hopefully beyond. The conference participants will be provided with a platform to deliberate on issues relating to their work and chart a way forward for ensuring recognition of youth work as a professional practice.
This conference is based on the foundation that youth work practice is a profession like any other and must therefore be recognised in order to meet the standards required for any profession. It is widely agreed that any profession should entail creating a body of knowledge, providing formal training, mastering specialised knowledge, establishing a professional association, developing an ethical code of practice, and regulating the practice in a manner that will protect the interests of the youth. Of importance to note is that, the start and allure of any profession begins with education and training.
As such, the importance of proper education and training of youth workers cannot be underestimated. It is for this reason that the Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP) has over the last 40 years liaised with member governments and academic institutions to provide education and training of youth workers. This is evidenced by their widely offered Diploma in Youth Development Work (DYD) as well as short courses and the Degree in Youth Development Work currently offered in Asia and Pacific. This has helped youth workers to meet the minimum basic qualification that would be required to practice youth work.
In South Africa, the University of South Africa is offering a Commonwealth Diploma in Youth Development Work. Additionally, there are other Institutions of Higher Learning that are also offering youth work qualification namely: University of Venda and Stellenbosch University. However, these institutions are faced with the greatest challenge of producing graduates who are not employable, owing to lack of recognition of their work. Lack of recognition of youth work as a profession has left this practice largely undefined and less marketable over the years. This is happening despite the need for youth focal points across the three spheres - a decision that was approved by the South African Cabinet.
Furthermore, other development workers whose roles impact on youth development may not necessarily be aware of youth workers’ critical contributions to the youth development sector. Hence as a mainstreaming and advocacy effort, there is a need to bring together various stakeholders in the youth development space through initiatives such as this conference in order to share experiences and lessons learnt.
The Conference has thus been designed as a bi-annual event for all youth workers, researchers in youth development, academics in youth development studies, policy makers, and government officials to discuss and agree on the common agenda for professionalising the field of youth work. For this inaugural conference, we are expecting a total of 500 delegates from the 54 Commonwealth member states including South Africa to be in attendance. The delegates are drawn from youth development networks in Governments, Non-Governmental Organisations, youth workers associations, institutions of higher learning, Youth Development Agencies, and Institutions of Higher Learning.
This conference will be characterized by plenary and parallel workshop sessions covering variety of relevant themes that include: Education and Training of Youth Workers; Recognition of Prior Learning and Continuous Professional Development; Standardisation of Youth Work Curriculum in the Commonwealth; Building and sustaining a strong front through formation of professional youth work associations; and Promoting Youth Work through National Youth Policies and Programmes. These discussions will look into current qualifications offerings, curricula of youth work studies, national and international recognition of youth work, employment opportunities for youth workers and their conditions of service.
Through this conference we seek to create awareness of youth work as a practice that is worthy to be recognised as a profession and advocate for provision of a qualification in youth work by education and training institutions. In the end, all these will build the capacity of those involved in youth work. Professionalization is a goal directly linked to South Africa’s national priority of professionalising the public service as stated in the National Development Plan. For the country and international community, it has become quite urgent to invest in the young people, especially in view of an increasing youth population group compared to children and adults. In South Africa, the 2011 census revealed that young people between the ages of 15 and 35 constitute more than 40% of the population. Therefore we cannot continue as if it is business as usual. We hope this conference will improve the status of youth work and in turn change for the better the way in which youth workers do things in an effort to improve the lives of young people.
I thank you.
Issued by Government Communication and Information System (GCIS)