Rising to the challenge

Hannah Ernstzen of Somerset West and classmate, Emma Martin.

The youth have both challenges and opportunitities, but it is essential that we remain focused and work hard to fulfil our dreams.

This is the common message from two young people Bolander spoke to in the lead- up to Youth Day on Saturday June 16, 16-year-old Hannah Ernstzen, a Grade 10 pupil at Somerset College in Somerset West, and 17-year-old Sir Lowry’s Pass resident Matt Titus, a Grade 11 pupil at Parel Vallei High School.

Hannah has devoted time and effort to community work in the past. “In 2013 I helped start a veggie garden for a local creche, and I’ve spent time helping at The DreamTree School (a school for children with developmental challenges) next to Somerset College. Last year, during trek (a 27-day outdoor adventure), I helped at a school in Greyton, and I have also worked on an alien-clearing programme.

“I plan to study psychology, and the marks I get from this year owards are important. I have to focus on my studies until I’ve finished Grade 12 and gained admission to university,” she says, adding that there will be time to get involved in community activities in the future.

Matt agrees. “I used to play rugby and chess, but I’ve stopped both. My Grade 11 marks will be very important in determining whether or not I get into uniersity, so I’ve decided I need to apply myself to academics.”

Matt does have one non-academic pursuit which, since he considers himself to be an extrovert, is surprising.

“I’m taking part in the school’s annual talent contest (on Thursday June 21). I started a band with three friends about a year ago. We call ourselves The Unusuals and I’m the lead singer,” he says.

Hannah has continued with her much-loved sport – rowing, and she competes in a number of classes.

Turning to the challenges that face the youth, Matt spoke out. “I feel that there is a lot of pressure in regard to you finding work one day and in regard to your future prospects.

“It’s quite scary, because even if you do your best and succeed, there is still a chance that you might not get a job and end up unemployed and unable to support yourself or a future family.”

Hannah spoke up about racial descrimination. “In my experience there is still a lot of racial segregation, and I’ve experienced it in sport. At a Boland sporting fixture two years ago, I saw that there were stars next to the names of players of colour. I felt that it was wrong because if you were picked for the team, it’s because you’re good enough. You shouldn’t be picked for a place in the team because of your colour.”

Matt and Hannah feel that while education is key to the prospects of youth success, government isn’t doing enough.

“Everyone should have a fair chance at getting a good education. I feel like so many people in this country don’t have that opportunity. And there are ways we could fix it,” says Hannah.

“If we look at how we budget we could find ways by which everyone could be educated. That could help in the future, because if everybody was educated, people could become entrepreneurs instead of aspiring to a job.”

On the subject of social media, they were once more in accord. Matt put it thus: “Social media has its positive side and its negative side. It opens people up to cyber-bullying, and it affects some people’s self-image, because they are constantly comparing themselves with others.”

But, as Hannah says: “It allows you to express yourself more freely and also to meet other people.”