During the years of 1948 to 1994, the governmental system of Apartheid was in full play in South Africa. The happenings or events that took place during this time period had a major impact on the South Africa we live in today. Though many events took place during Apartheid, I’m only focusing on the events of The Soweto Uprising of 1976, or what we call now, Youth Day.
The Soweto Uprising began on 16 June 1976 and was widely spread, changing the socio-political landscape in South Africa. Events that sparked the Uprising can be drawn back to the code of the Apartheid government which ended up with the debut of the Bantu Education Act of 1953. The growth of the Black Consciousness Movement and the formation of the South African Students Organisation elevated the legislative awareness of a lot of students, while other students allied themselves to the idea of an anti-Apartheid community and country.
Students of colour gathered themselves together when the language of Afrikaans, which was also said to be ‘the language of the oppressor’ became obligatory as a way of instruction in schools. This resulted in many students not going to school as it was difficult for teachers to teach in Afrikaans and for learners to adapt to the language of Afrikaans quickly.
On the day of June the 16th, year 1976, about 3 000 to 10 000 scholars marshaled by the South African Students Organisation backed by the Black Consciousness Movement marched composedly to prove and protest in contrast to the decree of the government. When marching the students were met with the South African police, tear gas and ammunition was released into the crowd after one single shot was fired by an individual in the police force. There were many pictures that were taken as the bodies of the young fell to the ground.
On that day many individuals were killed, but few deaths were highlighted. Among those who were killed was Hastings Ndlovu, the first child to die from the shootings and also 12 year old Hector Pietersen. We remember them, as well as Tsietsi Mashinini who had been leading the group of students as they protested.
Riots started happening all over South Africa once people got word of The Soweto Uprising. The government then decided to react with ‘organised violence’. The activities of people of colour were to be shut down along with anti-Apartheid Organisations. Gatherings that supported the idea of anti-Apartheid were to be stopped and many activists were harassed. One, Steve Biko, had been forced to stop his speeches to the public.
A temporary constitution had been drawn up as South Africa transitioned from Apartheid to a democratic country. Changes made valued the constitution as many of the laws were made around the subject of equality.
The nation was healed after the events that took place on this day, this is why we celebrate Youth Day, to remember all those who fought and against the Apartheid regime for fair education and for those who gave their lives fighting against Apartheid in general. Many who do not know the significance often think that the uprising was just for the freedom of students to be and do what they wanted to, while others do know the significance and thus show their appreciation to those who died for them to get the quality education that they receive on a daily basis. Many were under the wrong impression of what Youth Day is celebrated for and were surprised to learn that it is celebrated as a reminder.
It is clear to see that the youth who fought for their rights were looked up upon by everyone, except the government. Organisations were formed to fight peacefully against the system, but some were met with fatal blows by the police force. To conclude, Youth Day is celebrated for a much deeper reason than just the freedom of students.