PRETORIA, 15 July 2020 – UNICEF, UNDP and partners today announced the expansion of the ‘Generation Unlimited’ initiative on World Youth Skills Day to empower young people and provide the education and relevant skills they need to transition into their working lives.

The growing partnership includes UNICEF; UNDP; Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator; Future Africa at University of Pretoria; SuperSport Let’s Play; and Afrika Tikkun and comes at a critical time, as the COVID-19 pandemic has a multi-dimensional impact on young people, including on education and employment opportunities.

“Tapping the energy of young people is critical to building a fairer and better South Africa,” said Jama Gulaid, UNICEF Representative to South Africa. “The Generation Unlimited partnership can help provide the relevant and holistic skills that young people need to access decent work opportunities and to fulfil their goals,” Gulaid added.

“A healthy economy is driven by a healthy nation and COVID-19 is a threat to both,” said Dr Ayodele Odusola, Resident Representative, UNDP South Africa. “The opportunity is to maximise the role and potential of young people to help the nation respond and to draw on and build resilience in this time of crisis,” Dr Odusola added.

A recent national survey conducted with more than ten thousand young people aged 18 to 35-years, through UNICEF’s U-Report SMS platform, showed how COVID-19 and the related lockdown led to multiple and abrupt shocks in young people’s lives, whilst highlighting inequalities in access to digital learning and skills opportunities.

  • Only 11% of young people reported access to a laptop and Internet
  • 41% of respondents reported access to a smartphone but only 17% with a data bundle to connect
  • 41% highlighted the need for information to skills and training opportunities

The inequalities in digital access highlight the urgent need to invest in connectivity and remote learning to ensure every student, particularly the most vulnerable, has access to a wide range of educational opportunities. Many young people are disconnected from digital solutions that could dramatically improve their lives.

The Generation Unlimited initiative aligns with the Government’s National Youth Policy 2020-2030 and focuses on three key areas: secondary-age education; skills for learning, employability and decent work; and empowerment – including tackling misinformation that can so influence young people’s lives. The new interventions for and with young people will help to develop skills that are key to expanding access to digital knowledge and jobs, entrepreneurship and meaningful work.

UNICEF and UNDP continue to work with partners to respond to the needs of young people and aim to expand this partnership to reach as many young people as possible.

Generation Unlimited – which forms part of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Youth 2030 Strategy – complements and builds on existing programmes that support adolescents and young people.

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Source: Press release issued 15 July 2020.

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