In the early hours of 16 June 1976, thousands of students from secondary schools in Soweto marched against the compulsory introduction of Afrikaans into education.
They had gathered themselves and were led by the South African Student’s Movement and the Soweto Students Representative Council, with Black Consciousness Movement support.
Currently, today’s youth are faced with many complex challenges such as unemployment, poverty, inequality, crime, and, most recently, the various impacts of COVID-19; in East and Southern Africa, various countries are implementing stay-at-home protocols and restrictions on movement.
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- Youth Day is to commemorate the Soweto Uprising of June 16, 1976. This is when students at various Sowetan schools began a protest in the streets of Soweto against Bantu Education – the introduction of the Afrikaans language as a medium of instruction in those schools.
- Famous photographer Sam Nzima, who took the iconic picture of Hector Pieterson being carried after he was shot, died at Mpumalanga hospital on Saturday, 12 May 2018.
- Youth Day was initially known as Soweto Day among the supporters of the ANC, but was officially made a public holiday after Nelson Mandela became president in 1994.
- In the uprising, Hector Pieterson was one of the first students to be killed.
- The death toll from the June 1976 uprising is 176 in total.
- Twenty-three people died on the first day, and thousands were injured as a result. Several reports state that as many as 200 people were killed, but SAHistory.org claims 23 people were killed. Due to police efforts to hide the number of deaths, it is difficult to know how many people were killed.
- International Youth Day falls on August 12 this year, while Youth Day in South Africa is celebrated on June 16.
- The weekend following the uprisings, the Committee of Ten was formed, with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Desmond Tutu as members. Those killed on June 16 were buried as part of their first job, said former student leader Seth Mazibuko.
- The Pieterson image of Sam Nzima was published after he was held under house arrest in Lilydale, Mpumalanga, for 19 months.
- The Hector Pieterson Museum is surrounded by stone walls with water seeping through them. It symbolizes the rocks protesting students threw at cops and the water they used to wash away tear gas from their eyes.
Every year on 16 June, Youth Day celebrates the importance of youth and their voices. In addition, the day honours those young people who lost their lives in the struggle against Apartheid and the Bantu Education System.