Youth Work in South Africa

The development of the profession of youth work is an integral component of the building of a new republic free of the racist political framework of the past. Recently a South African Youth WOrker, Rene Denes who is undertaking a comparative study of youth work in Australia, South Africa and England, informed Rapport of the situation in her country.

There is no record of talking about professional youth work in South Africa until 1969. Prior to that it was mainly church based activitiy with young people. In the 1970s sponosored training began and there was a national training programme for youth leaders within the Methodist Church. By and large the churches were on the side of the anti apartheid struggle and many community related organisations developed an increased political and black consciousness. The work of Paulo Frere was popular. Young people themselves were of course very much in the forefront of the anti apartheid movement. Many were killed. A great deal of youth work was funded by international organisations, the state mainly funded the uniformed organisations.

In the late 1980s the Youth Practitioners Advocacy Group was established to lobby for the professionalisation of youth work. In 1996 a conference of 120 youth workers held a Conference and produced a statement known as the Hunter Rest Declaration which set out our objectives for clear, respected career paths, a clear philosophical and education framework for our work, clear outcomes for youth work and a professional code of ethics.

This work ultimately led to the idea of forming a professional association for youth workers and draft policy documents relating to the development of community based youth work in the rural areas.

Our statements and policies were given to the Minister of Welfare in the government and although some of our proposals were not funded, our profession was granted official recognition for the first time.

In 1996 a Youth Commission was established to write the country’s first youth policy. There was a genuine consultative process.

In 1998 the Youth Practitioners Advocacy Group became the South African Youth Workers Association with its own constitution, code of ethics, and standards. It was launched as the first collective voice of professional youth workers. SAYWA has now had an Annual General Meeting.

AS yet there is no serious government money invested in youth work, but this will follow we are sure.

CYWU, as a strong supported of the anti apartheid movement in the past, looks forward to making close links with our colleagues in South Africa and inviting them to Conference 2001.


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