Youth Month In South Africa – Zaid Najjaar

Meet Zaid Najjaar
DOB – 15 June 2000
Birthplace – Cape Town, South Africa
School – South African College Schools (SACS)
Grade – 12

MM: What does Youth Month in South Africa mean to you?
Zaid Najjaar: Youth Month is a time for us as South Africans to not only appreciate the sacrifices the youth made during the struggle but also for us as youth to be aware of the challenges we face today and our responsibility that we have as not only the youth but the ambassadors of the underrepresented children of South Africa.
It is a time for us as people to reflect and rethink the role that the youth play in the decision-making in our country. We see globally the huge number of movements founded and lead by the youth. We see this in the USA with the March for Our Lives campaign and the impact it has had.

This is clear proof of the power of the youth and how the time of our voices being silenced is coming to an end. We are the future and will no longer stand by and let people shun our opinions and thoughts on our country simply because of our age. To me this month is a reminder to use as South African youth that we will inherit this land soon and have a responsibility to start bettering it as best as we can right now and not only in 20 years. We are the wave of change and we must stand strong and united in order to better not only our country but our world.

MM: What is your dream and/or vision for South Africa and the world at large?
Zaid Najjaar: I dream of a world where people will be able to live a life not driven by money or material success but rather one where we as individuals can enjoy the beauty of the world around us and live safe, peaceful and enjoyable lives that are financially secure, emotionally stable and environmentally sustainable. So much of our problems as a country and the world as a whole are rooted in ignorance and fear. We try to segregate ourselves from each other and compete to be the best, but at what cost? Depression and suicide are at all-time highs, we are on the verge of destruction of many ecosystems and the loss of several species. So many people live lives of oppression and injustice while others suffer in poverty. We see how lives are destroyed by conflict resulting in not only the loss of innocent lives but the scars of the memories of those who manage to survive. We see hatred for minorities and isolated groups such as immigrants increase. With all this, it’s easy to lose hope.

Can we fix what centuries of conflict, oppression and hatred did? The truth is, I have no idea. I have no brilliant solution or plan of action, but I know we must try. We are the generation that has unlimited potential. We overcome the opinions of those who undermine us and try lead us to failure. Yes, we may be a strange group with our memes and dark humour and our obsession with social media. It is that complete strangeness that gives me hope though. Our ability to use social media to help fight injustices and help those in need, our use of dark humour as a coping mechanism to help us not be disheartened by all the tragedy of the world around us, and our memes to celebrate our joy and hopes.

That is why I believe that we are the ones who can be the turning point in the history of the world. We as the youth of South Africa have many challenges to face but we can achieve our dream of a better future for all. We may have been handed a world filled with tragedy and problems, but we will learn from the mistakes of those before us and hopefully never repeat them so that we may move forward and pass, not just our country but, the world, to the next generation better than how we received it.

MM: What are some of the challenges that you have dealt with as a young person and have observed that young people struggle with in general?
Zaid Najjaar: I have had the great privilege of working alongside many great people in organisations such as the Junior City Council (JCC) on which I served for 2 years and Interact where we helped other organisations such as Habitat for Humanity and Kids2Kids to name a few. Here I saw the struggles of many people, from poverty and the lack of food and housing, to disability and the struggles that those who are physically and mentally impaired face. We see the struggles of youth with drugs and alcoholism. We see how children struggle through the schooling system littered with obstacles such as lack of resources and poor management. This became very clear to me when I joined a group that travels to the Transkei once a year to help repair a school and tutor the children. This trip allowed me to appreciate the things that I previously took for granted.
While I know my efforts are no more than a miniscule crack in a massive wall of struggles that the youth face, I hope that my small crack will help lead the hand that will strike down this wall and will lead to freedom and be the foundation for a better future for everyone.

MM: What are some of the challenges that you have dealt with as a young person and have observed that young people struggle with in general?
Zaid Najjaar: I’ve also personally struggled with depression and anxiety, a struggle that is on the rise amongst children throughout our country and around the world. I’ve suffered the loss of friends who took their own lives and others who lost theirs to senseless gang violence and crimes. While I know I have lived a very safe and privileged life filled with opportunities, I try my best to remember those who are not as fortunate and do what I can to help change that.

MM: What, in your view, could the Youth do about those challenges?
Zaid Najjaar: We need to start making our voices heard more. While we may rant and rave online, it’s time that we start to be more than keyboard activists and go out and try to effect the change that we want to see. We can no longer wait for the older generation and government to solve our problems. It is our time to go out and be the change we want in the world, otherwise when we finally reach the level of power we want, it may be too late.

MM: What, in your view, could make those struggles or challenges better at a societal level?
Zaid Najjaar: All voices should be heard. Therefore, the opinions of not only those in power and in authority but of the youth and working-class people should be considered. The problems in our society affect us all and often solutions can come, not from the people observing an issue, but the ones on ground zero experiencing it. By working together, we stand a better chance at solving our problems and coming up with viable and sustainable solutions to help us all.

MM: What are you most proud of?
Zaid Najjaar: The fact that I was once the youngest international black belt in my karate discipline in the world.

MM: What are your favourite things in the whole wide world?
Zaid Najjaar:
Food! Some of my favourites include Ramen, ice cream (preferably from The Creamery), lasagne and pizza
Puppies! We have a family dog and his name is Skyler. I take care of him mainly.

MM: In what ways do you intend to contribute to South Africa, Africa and the world at large in the future?
Zaid Najjaar: I intend to start a co-op in South Africa, with the intention of using the profits to fund sustainable local projects focused on increasing living environments that are financially and socially beneficial, incorporating features such as subsistence roof-top farming and running on completely sustainable renewable energy.

MM: Are you excited about the future and what excites you the most?
Zaid Najjaar: I’m excited by the innovations in technology and the way that the future holds endless possibilities and the chance at a better future being more tangible as the years go by.

MM: What is your message to the youth of South Africa and the youth of the world at large?
Zaid Najjaar: While we may be excited to take charge and start changing the world, patience is a virtue that we must learn, and, while the transition may seem tedious, we should use this time to learn from the older generations and prepare ourselves for the future.

MM: What is your message to the older generations, i.e. your parent’s generation and above?
Zaid Najjaar: While we may be hard to understand, and stereotypes of Millennial and Gen Z kids are negative, you need to understand that all we want is the hope of a better future and success post-1994. We may not know the struggle of living through apartheid, but we have our own issues that we need to deal with and if you give us a chance, you’ll see that we are the same young, hopeful and determined generation you once were. So please be the mentors to us that you wish you had had.