THE SIGNIFICANCE OF YOUTH DAY
By: Zama Ngcoya
The year 2015 marks exactly 39 years since the tragic killing of over 23 people, including two whites, in the 1976 Soweto Student Uprising.
June 16 is a very significant day in the South Africa. According to website http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soweto_uprising, 16th June is a public holiday that honours the memory of those pupils who died in the fight against the Afrikaans Medium Decree of 1974.
The decree compelled all black schools in the country to use the language of the oppressor, Afrikaans, as a language of instruction.
The introduction of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction did not sit well with local African schools.
Black pupils felt that they were not treated nor taught equally with the white students in South Africa. They then took to the streets in protest to voice their dissatisfaction against the education system.
What began as a peaceful protest by pupils who believed they deserved equality in education and not to be taught in Afrikaans turned into a bloody confrontation between school children and police officers.
Rocks were thrown at the authorities by the pupils, and the police fired at the fuming youth, in retaliation. One of the first people to be killed was Hector Pietersen, a twelve year old boy who had participated in the protest.
Hector was shot by one of the policemen who were attempting to disperse the crowd of angry youths.
South Africans are now living in a democratic country with opportunities.
However some young people are not aware of what past pupils had to go through and the significance of the 16th of June.
Blessing Mdletshe, a matric pupil at Woodhurst Secondary School, said that he did not understand the significance of the public holiday.
“I do not know much about June 16, all I know is that many students died while protesting in Soweto in 1976,” he added.
Thabo Moketsi, a psychology student on the other hand, said that he understood what the day was about.
“This is a very important holiday for me. I have to show appreciation for the lives that were lost in order for me to be where I am today.
Our fallen heroes did not die in vain. I am now able to have an education that is of quality, in my mother tongue. I shall forever be grateful to them.
I will wear my old school uniform in remembrance of the youth of 1976,” he added.
In South Africa, various events such as theatrical plays and memorial walks are held every year to commemorate the student uprising of 1976. Such initiatives are undertaken to teach the youth of today about their past.