Youth Day on 16 June is a public holiday in South Africa and commemorates a protest which resulted in a wave of protests across the country known as the Soweto uprising of 1976.
It came in response to multiple issues with the Bantu Education Act and the government edict in 1974 that Afrikaans be used as medium of instruction for certain subjects in black schools. The iconic picture of Hector Pieterson, a black schoolchild shot by the police, brought home to many people within and outside of South Africa the effect of the struggle during the Apartheid government’s reign.
The mobilisation came to a peak on June 16, 1976 when thousands of youth in Soweto protested in their classrooms. They then started marching towards Orlando stadium where almost 10,000 unarmed students gathered for a peaceful planned protest. Along the way, security forces tried to stop them with tear gas and warning shots. When the students continued marching, the forces then opened fire with live ammunition.
With multiple youth killed and hundreds injured, the original peaceful protest turned violent. And with it came a much more massive uprising around the country and world. Though the apartheid government was still in power for years after this movement, many view this as one of the important turning points in South Africa. Now marked as Youth Day, June 16 is a day to remember how far this country has come and how far it still has to go.
President Jacob Zuma will lead the official government commemoration of Youth Day which is getting underway in the North-West province on Friday morning.
The country is remembering the 1976 youth uprising in which young people revolted against the apartheid-era education system. About 10,000 people are expected to attend today’s event which is one of several happening across the country. The little town of Ventersdorp in the North West is being flooded by buses transporting young people to the Tshing Sports Stadium for the Youth Day event.
The country’s youth unemployment rate has risen by 1.6% in the last year to 38.6%. Zuma will likely deal with this issue and several others facing the country’s youth during his speech today.
Author: Staff Writer