In the Karoo area of the Northern Cape province of South Africa, it is established that large swathes of the land is uranium rich. After some prospecting to check on the viability of mining the area, the process of moving this issue forward has begun. Given the implications of mining uranium, the usage of water as well as the potential radioactive poisoning of the water supply, the local population an environmental groups are disturbed at the long-term impact on the environment as well as human and animal life. This though is not the essence of this post.
What intrigued me about the program insert was an interview with two young people, a couple aged 23 and 24 years respectively. When quizzed about the economic impact of the potential mining of uranium, both indicated they would welcome the work since they're both unemployed. They lamented completing high school but not being able to find a job. Then the punchline was dropped for me: between them, they had 10 mouths to feed in the form of 10 children. I almost fell off my chair. How do two, mid-twenties, young, unemployed people service 10 children? Never mind at what age they started having kids. Surely their motivation could not have been that the State provides R350 ($15) p/m per child in the form of a child grant to address the basic needs of these minors? I didn't have to think it. This was indeed their primary motivation in the absence of work.
I kept asking myself if I'd lost-the-plot. Surely having completed high school, these young people had more sense than this? How do they miss the logic of feeding 12 mouths on less than R4000 per month or $260 is not viable? How do they not see that they are not only condemning themselves but also the children to long-term poverty and under-nutrition or even malnutrition?
Other questions also come to mind. For example, What kind of teaching and learning environments did they receive their education in? Were they ever encouraged to think critically about the world they living in, that to survive they needed to interact with their environment and have skill sets that allow them to be gainfully employed? Were they encouraged to be entrepreneurial? Did they gain any understanding about the cost of living and the burden of poverty? Or were they simply encouraged to scrape through with minimum achievement grades? Worse still, how many thousands find themselves in the same position or share the same thinking? And where does this leave a country such as ours, struggling with an almost zero % growth rate, 12+ million people on some form of social grant and an unemployment rate for persons between 18-35 years old at >50%?
What do you think? Do leave a comment and stimulate the conversation.