June 16 is celebrated as a public holiday nationwide, many take the youth month of June as an important period to reflect on where the youth of today stands in comparison to those of 1976.
The holiday is in commemoration of the students of 1976 that protested in the streets of Soweto when the apartheid government enforced Afrikaans into the education system. The government retaliated to the protest with force. The infamous picture of Hector Peterson who was fatally shot by the police at the time, is a reminder of the painful protesting which resulted in chaos, with more than just Hector Peterson losing his life in those rampant streets. This day is one that emphasised the bravery of students as they stood up to the oppressor and revealed the might that the children possessed, more so because of the mass of numbers that showed up on the day. The youth are the incoming leaders of society and they ought to be moulded and directed into greatness, thus, June 16 every year, continues to be a day of commemoration and appraisal for what the students did then to benefit us now.
The Mc Gregor Museum showcased a beautiful display on the movements that took place during the apartheid era. The exhibition was sponsored by the South African Archives which recorded most of the happenings from the 1970s. Students formed organisations like Galeshewe Youth Organisation (GAYO) where they demanded that their grievances be heard and adequately dealt with. They wanted Bantu education demolished, more textbooks for students and less overcrowding of classrooms. In Kimberley in 1980, students boycotted the oppressive system, resulting in disrupted schooling for a year. The CEO of the museum, Sunet Swanepoel said, “I had hoped for a bigger turn out however I am glad that everything went well. We shall be hosting more exhibitions like this and the next one will be held at the Springbok Museum”. Nikita Dube, an attendee of the event, explained that she feels things actually have not changed, “I feel that the youth is going through the same struggles just under a different regime, bright children are dying for an education and that education should be easily accessible to all of them”.
The national movement, Fees Must Fall, that brought tertiary education specifically to a near standstill in 2015, was a means of the current students expressing their frustration with the difficulty of attaining an education in this day and age. Their plight was for more affordable education, so that all can be included. Much like the students of 1976, they protested so that the government could realise how they ought to step in and take action. The government has since said that education will be free for all students that come from homes that cannot afford to take them to school.
The president of the Republic, Cyril Rhamaphosa, attended the celebrations of Youth Day at the Peter Mokaba Cricket Club in Polokwane. A career expo took place, the president explained, “This country’s young people are far from being the lost generation. They live in a country with enormous opportunities, and government is assisting them to take up these opportunities”. Unemployment is deemed a national crises and it is urged that the private sector also partake in assisting the youth. It was not all serious talks however, as fun was had when Ramaphosa was seen doing the popular ‘Vosho’ dance.
The adults of tomorrow are the youth of today. Let youth month be a reminder to every one of the bravery that the students of 1976 had. Amandla!