– by Nkosingiphile Ntshangase
Youth Day is commemorated on the 16th of June to acknowledge and pay homage to the fearlessness of the protestors in Soweto in 1976. On this day, the youth protested against introducing Afrikaans on an equal basis as English as a medium of teaching in schools. This day honours the vision of the young freedom fighters of an equal and just nation. In celebrating the youth, we are demonstrating power and unity in the rainbow nation and the potential of young people to make a difference in the world. It is important to reflect on how far South Africa has come at this point in its history, but also to continue moving forward. The youth of 1976 fought for the economic freedom and education all South Africans relish today. The vision must remain relevant so those following a democratic society can maintain the same values.
According to South African History Online, “The June 16 1976 Uprising that began in Soweto and spread countrywide profoundly changed the socio-political landscape in South Africa”. A rally at the Orlando Stadium was supposed to wrap up the march. However, protesters were met with a heavy contingent of police that confronted them on their way, using tear gas and live ammunition to disperse the demonstrating students. Consequently, a revolt against the government broke out and turned into an uprising.
As we look back at the events surrounding the uprising of 1976, let us remember to reflect and learn from those experiences. We must make decisions for the betterment of our society, and we should recognise that the youth play a pivotal role in shaping the future. To achieve meaningful change, this should be embraced and encouraged.
We acknowledge this day to remember the youth that risked their lives to combat an oppressive regime that ignited a shift in South African society for the better. We are fortunate that the right to education is considered a fundamental right for all, regardless of race and in a language understood by all.
This day is not only reserved to celebrate the youth but also serves as a reminder that the struggle is not over until quality education is accessible to the greater population of South Africa.