Celebrating Youth Day

By Rachel Wray Makutu-Social Activist

Celebrating Youth Day 
As we celebrate Youth Day on the 16th of June we are commemorating the youth of South Africa that died achingly fighting for their voices to be heard, fighting for freedom and equality. We celebrate this day in South Africa annually as a great reminder of the importance of youth and their voices. 
Youth day is rigidly marked on our hearts as South Africans because we all know our history, we have come a long way with oppression and fighting for equality and better education. South Africa sustained a lot of struggle during apartheid and it is within that struggle that the youth found their voices to stand against the injustice and violation of human rights. 
The apartheid regime had a plan and their plan was to deny young black South Africans an opportunity to real education. When “Bantu Education” was introduced in 1953, it was under the National Party which made independent schools illegal in South Africa, they had total control of the educational system and by so doing they ensured that black people would be educated only to a certain level; never above the white. The reason for this was so that the white men would always have the authority in workplaces and have the upper hand on the economy which was designed to benefit the white people. The apartheid government wanted to end a threat that was posed to them by intelligent, smart young black Africans, not only did they aim to devalue them but also use them and pay them cheap for labour. 
By 1976 the youth of South Africa had enough and their grievance was about to explode. It took the youth of South Africa one day to change the course of the country’s history, to raise their voices and demand the education that they deserved. On June 16, 1976, in Soweto, a large group of students mostly in high school organised a protest which is well-known as the Soweto Uprising, it was a march leading to Orlando stadium in response to the to the introduction of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in local schools by the apartheid government. Between 6000 to 20000 students from different schools gathered for the protest, they were interrupted by the police who formed a wall and demanded the students to disseminate immediately but before they could even do that the police fired shots directly to the students without warning.  Between 500 to 700 students were killed but the government only reported about 23 deaths, amongst those students who were shot was Hector Pieterson who was only 13 years old. He was carried by Mbuyisa Makhubo, a fellow student, to a nearby clinic. Pieterson’s crying sister Antoinette Sithole runs alongside and a photographer captured the horrific moment. And now, 46 years later that picture still depicts the brutality and viciousness our then government caused to the South African youth and South Africa as a whole. 
So on this day we celebrate, understanding how far we come and all the sacrifices and the lives that were taken on June 16 in 1976,  we have a voice to fight oppression and discrimination of race. 
Let us use that voice to protect the youth of South Africa and continuously strive for better education and opportunities. 
We need to commemorate this day in peace but stand fearless and firm as the youth of this country to fight against the injustice, use our courage and power to create a better South Africa. We as the youth hold the future of our country and it is up to us which direction we stir the future to. Our voices are powerful and we need to use them innovatively to empower young people. 

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