On June 16 each year, South Africans celebrate Youth Day. Youth Day commemorates the Soweto Uprising, which took place on 16 June 1976, where thousands of students were ambushed by the apartheid regime.
On Youth Day, South Africans pay tribute to the lives of these students and recognises the role of the youth in the liberation of South Africa from the apartheid regime.
The Bantu Education Act and the Soweto Uprising
Let’s rewind a little further to January of 1954, when the Bantu Education Act came into effect, making it compulsory for black children to attend government schools and learn specific subjects in English and Afrikaans. Prior to this, most black children only had access to schools run by missions that were understaffed and poorly attended.
The Bantu Education system wasn’t much better and featured separate schools and universities, poor facilities, overcrowded classrooms and inadequately trained teachers, resulting in a lack of quality education for black children.
In January of 1976, the government mandated that all school subjects be taught in Afrikaans. This decision caused an uproar amongst parents, teachers and students, so later that year, on 16 June, 16-year-old Antoinette Sithole and an estimated 20,000 students from Soweto and the surrounding secondary and high schools, planned to peacefully protest Afrikaans as the primary teaching language in schools.
Thousands of students gathered to protest from their schools to Orlando Stadium in Soweto. Little did they know it would go on to become one of the most tragic, yet pivotal, protests in all of South Africa’s history.
Singing ‘Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, which means ‘God Bless Africa’ – a song banned by the apartheid regime, the students made their way through the streets of Soweto when police randomly opened fire on them. In the confusion and chaos, Sithole’s 13-year-old brother, Hector Pieterson was fatally shot.
Photojournalist, the late Sam Nzima, was covering the protest for The World, a Johannesburg newspaper, when he captured the iconic image of Pieterson’s lifeless body being carried through the streets with Sithole crying hysterically by his side. The photograph was published across the globe and Pieterson came to symbolise the uprising, giving the world a shocking glimpse into the sheer brutality of apartheid.
The students’ brave efforts resulted in international pressure and sanctions against the South African government to make changes to its educational policies, and in 1995, the newly-elected democratic government declared that the 16th of June would be Youth Day – to serve as a reminder of the progress our country has made regarding equality and equal opportunity for all youth.
The year 2020 will mark 44 years since the 1976 Student uprising. Youth Month this year, because of COVID-19 Lockdown Regulations, will be celebrated virtually, through various platforms such as Social Media, Web-based seminars (Webinars), Virtual Masterclasses and harnessing the power of social media.
Join Premier Sihle Zikalala and all the MEC’s of KwaZulu-Natal on Tuesday, 16 June 2020, from 16h00pm, as they engage with the young people of KwaZulu-Natal about the many challenges that are facing the youth today.
KZN Provincial Government will commemorate the 2020 Youth Day celebrations by holding a virtual celebration which will feature exchange of information between the young people of KwaZulu-Natal and the Provincial Government on various pertinent issues affecting the youth.
The theme for the engagement which “Youth Power; Growing South Africa Together In The Period Of Covid-19.”
You can join the Premier and the MECs LIVE via the following links...
Together let us grow KwaZulu-Natal.