Celebrating Youth Day
On the 16 June 2014 all South Africans will be celebrating Youth Day. Youth Day is a day set aside to commemorate the Soweto Uprising that took place in this very country. It is a day we recognize the role all the youth played to fight against the Apartheid regime.
The reason why the Soweto Uprising occurred was because of a new law that passed in in 1974 stating that Afrikaans would be compulsory in all schools. The law ordered Afrikaans to be used in connection with English for teaching in all schools. This means that a few subjects like social studies, mathematics and algebra were taught in Afrikaans, and the rest of the subjects such as home economics, and physical science were taught in English. South Africans that spoke Xhosa, Zulu and other different languages were not allowed to use their local languages in class.
Afrikaans was famously known as the “language of the oppressor” and everyone who thought this resented the language, students as well as teachers. On the 30 April, 1976 the resentment grew to an all time high and the students that belonged to Orlando West Junior High School boycotted school in order to fight for their rights. On the 16 June 1976, thousands of black students held a protest rally where they marched from their school to Orlando Stadium.
The rally was supposed to be a peaceful protest, but as soon as the walk started things got out of hand and a riot soon took place. Hundreds of youth were seen lifeless on the ground during the protest. The youth that were brave enough to take matters into their own hands did not see the taking back of the language law immediately, but their voices were heard and in many cases it was the turning point in South Africa’s liberation campaign which helped the downfall of the apartheid government.
Youth Day in South Africa is a day we remember all the youth who lost their lives during the protest, especially a 12-year-old student Hector Pieterson who was killed during the uprising. We also remember those who were brave enough to fight for what they believed in.
Youth Day is a day filled with celebrations. There are musical concerts that are held every year on the 16 June. You will see many educational discussions held in schools or in tertiary institutions. Ultimately the Soweto Uprising helped lay the grounds for the release of Nelson Mandela and end Apartheid, which will always be apart of South Africa. We salute the youth that fought for our freedom on the 16 June 1976.