South Africa always seems to buzzing just before a long weekend approaches. This Thursday has turned into a Friday and well, that’s all that really matters to some. One day less of school, university or work is gladly welcomed by most but instead of just letting this public holiday, Youth Day in this particular instance, pass by without any notice continue to read this article.
The scene is Soweto and the date is 16 June 1976. Thousands of students took to the streets to partake in what should’ve been a peaceful protest against the implementation of the Afrikaans language in Bantu schools. Afrikaans was decided as the language of instruction and this development angered not only the students but also the teachers of these said schools. On the morning of June 16, 1976, thousands of black students went on a protest rally from their schools to Orlando Stadium.
Unfortunately, something went terribly wrong. About 23 people were killed when the peaceful protest turned violent. The most famous of all being thirteen-year-old Hector Peterson. The incident was labelled as the Soweto Uprising, the occurrence of which lay the groundwork for the release of Nelson Mandela and the end of the Apartheid era. Youth Day in South Africa is celebrated in memory of all the youngsters who lost their lives during the protest. The day is celebrated every year to recognise the role of the youth in the liberation of South Africa from the apartheid regime.
It is true that this happened many years ago and some might even utter the words ‘it’s in the past’, which is true, the event is in the past but so is yesterday. Such horror and pain transcends time just as all heartache does, obviously in varying degrees. But, if that is your chosen stance then try looking at it from a different perspective. Some propose that Youth Day is relevant today and allows us to ponder the meaning of the struggle to the youth of today. Youth Day should not only be used as a day of recognition for the sacrifice those students made, it is also about the celebration of the achievements by today’s generation of youth.
The theme of the year 2017 is fittingly: ‘ The year of OR Tambo: Advancing Youth Economic Empowerment’. This year Youth Day will be commemorated in Ventersdorp, North West Province. Here, Jacob Zuma is expected to address the crowd and deliver the keynote address.
By: Kriszti Bottyan