Success doesn't happen overnight

This month is known as a Youth Month in South Africa. The idea is derived from the 1976 massacre when school children took to the streets to fight the white Apartheid system, forcing them to use Afrikaans as medium of expression.

The month is dedicated to youth empowerment, giving them a voice and charting the possible way forward to try and arrive at possible solutions.

The rationale is to use 1976 as an impetus to try propel today's youth into doing something better with their lives and work harder to contribute to the wealth of this country.

A lot of people don't believe it when I tell them that I did not achieve what I have overnight. As a 30-year-old South African youth who still has much to achieve, I know how it feels to go to bed without food, to stay in a leaky shack under extreme weather conditions and only pray and hope that the next day will bring comfort.

Let me tell you something about myself. In 2000 I was in grade 7 at the age of 17. Fast forward to 2005, I was 22 and the oldest in our grade 12 class. I was mocked every day and many told me that I needed to go look for a job as there was no hope for me in academics, I should maybe look at security or construction as options.

I walked a combined 20km to and from school every day. I studied even on weekends and I remember in my last months the school principal, teachers and school governing body made efforts to help me get to school and eat.

After school I worked as a taxi driver but no one knew about it because I kept it a secret.

To make matters worse, when I went to university I couldn't speak or write English well. I struggled for months but made a vow to develop my communication ability in a world where English in an integral part of learning. I panicked and thought I was going to fail but I always reminded myself of where I was headed to, so I soldiered on despite the odds.

Walking in the township where I once lived, where I grew up and played with many of those who are now sitting on the street corners all day long without any productivity, I see pain and suffering. You can almost smell the poverty and see hopelessness in their eyes, much of which is driven by ignorance and laziness.

The effort put in during one year by these young men and women equals one week of my daily chores and work. This is where bad behaviour gets fertile turf and the youth starts engaging in dangerous acts and crimes.

As I have made a success of my life, many parents have asked me numerous times to talk to their children as some form of motivation.

These days, everywhere you go in the country you hear of how many people are suffering. Government this, government that.

I don't consider myself different from any of those people but the right attitude always helped me to stay ahead and remain disciplined enough to succeed. I didn't simply go to sleep and wake up with degrees and a decent job.

Without sounding indelicate and provocative, I find it rather disturbing that every time I set foot in the township, people always ask me for money even before they greet me. My reluctance to pay regular visits to my kasi has been halted by this ill-mannered mentality of young people who have become overnight beggars.

We seem to be living in a society of moral decay; passivity has become the order of many people's lives.

Most of those who are now asking for money from me have forgotten all the challenges I overcame. I paid the price when I needed to and I had to deny myself pleasures in order to get to my ultimate goals and ambitions.

These are young people who seem to have lost hope and have no sense of direction. Every time I get together with some of my old school classmates, they want to make me feel as though I owe them something for being a success. For how long should I continue paying this unorthodox tax?

I don't want to be apologetic about my success and I recognise the fact that I had some stepping stone in my life in order for me to get to where I am. I had people who saw fit to dedicate their finances, open their houses and take time out to assist me, primarily because I was keen and ready for the help.

Young people in South Africa need to cultivate the attitude of hard work and cease the mentality of overnight success and anger that is initiated by an attitude of entitlement.

It's very disturbing to see young people being the ones running up front when people protest and damage property.

One of the greatest challenges I have noticed is that education has not been advocated. Many people are not process-minded and their definition of success is based on materialism. Excuse me but that's flimsy... they are not willing to pay the price to work hard. Going through life's challenges is what will make you stand up tall and be successful, not only in material terms but also in how you approach what life throws your way.

No success is achieved overnight; we need to preach this message to our children and our people. The perfect example is how Apartheid was defeated, through countless efforts and struggles which had begun many years before, and it had many phases. Each step led to another and eventually the demise came.

On the other hand, this is the very group of young people failed by their government. They are disenchanted by the blatant failure of the state to create jobs, fight poverty and fix the decrepit education system.

The rampant corruption continues to potentially cripple the economic muscle of this country and significantly affects job prospects from the youths' point of view. If June is dedicated to young people, let it be that adequate resources are made available to aid them in finding lasting solutions to their problems.

We need to teach our children to be patriotic about the affairs of this country. We need to enlighten them on how they can take this country forward, with tremendous leadership abilities and qualities.

A change of mentality is essential in seeking ways to transform the South African society and its economy.

Leeto Khoza is an online writer at EWN. He has a degree in Political Science and International Relations.