A recent digital Sunday Times Gen Next in partnership with HDI Youth Consultancy event focused on whether education systems have adapted to the aspriations of today’s youth. The discussion was moderated by Jacaranda FM’s Kenzi Mohapi with panellists including the commissioning editor for SABC Education, Hanyani Sono; national graduate skills development manager at Rosebank College, Lillian Bususu; creative director at Publicis, Jonathan Dennis; and learner representative and the 2019 Herald winner, Sachin Naidoo.

The SABC’s mandate as far as education is concerned is to broaden and expand access to education via broadcasting platforms. As such, the national broadcaster provides CAPS aligned educational support as well as tertiary education support, revealed Sono. The SABC has provided online classrooms through the Covid-19 crisis to support learners via YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. In addition to providing curriculum support the broadcaster has also provided learners with opportunities to interact with educators in order to bridge gaps in their knowledge and address problem areas.

Sono said the public broadcaster was open to suggestions regarding educational content and collaborations.

He said private schools have managed to provide more online education than public schools through the lockdown period and this is because they have better access to data and devices. Encouragingly, government has announced proposals regarding zero rating certain education platforms from a data perspective, although there is still uncertainty around when this will come into effect. “The Covid crisis has forced the entire education sector to relook how teaching is delivered and how learners learn,” he said.

The role of the educator has never been more critical: not only are they providing an education but also their life experience to learners, pointed out Bususu, adding the old maxim of ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. “I support the idea that a nation that does not nurture its youth does not deserve its future,” she said.

Education is the foundation upon which the youth will base their ability to be employed. However, more than a qualification they need to be developed to be work ready, she said. “Education without the future prospect of employability is meaningless.”

What the Covid crisis has highlighted is the need for educational institutions, media such as the SABC, and brands to collaborate more meaningfully to ensure all youth have equal access to educational curricula and support rather than the current situation where each stakeholder operates in their own silo.

Brands too are moving towards a more collaborative phase and there is no doubt that they too could be doing more, said Dennis. The youth make up more than a third of the population and are therefore an influential sector of the market. However, they will reject advertising messages that are not authentic. This means that it’s vital that advertisers understand their audience. “When you create messages that resonate with the youth market it’s amazing what you can achieve,” he said.

Dennis’ agency Publicis, has used the Covid crisis to accelerate the rollout of its online platform, Marcel, to employees around the world. The platform provides company and industry information as well as training modules, and updates on Covid-19.

Online education has proved a different experience, conceded first year university student Naidoo, adding that it has required discipline, focus, tenacity and flexibility. He advised brands to listen more to the youth, and to collaborate more closely with them, potentially through student organisations.

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