Forty-one years ago, the streets of Soweto, a township in South Africa were packed with thousands of Black students protesting against an official order which made Afrikaans compulsory in Black schools throughout the country. The use of local languages was forbidden in those schools and this language was extremely linked with the racist apartheid regime.
This month, South Africa commemorates and honours the deaths of hundreds of Soweto children who were ambushed by the apartheid regime police. Many would attest that 16 June 1976 changed the course of South Africa’s history.
Young people who fought fearlessly during this struggle had very high hopes for a better life, not only for 1976 youth but for all future generations who lived in this country.
When democracy was finally achieved in South Africa, thousands of young people did not get the opportunity to taste the aftermath of what they have fought for. However, they paved a path for young people to step away from Bantu education and embrace equality education.
This reminds me of one of Solomon Mahlangu’s well-known quotes, which he said to his mother before he was hanged by the apartheid regime police in prison at Pretoria:
“My blood will nourish the tree that will bear the fruits of freedom. Tell my people that I love them. They must continue the struggle.”
In an interview with News24, Solomon Mahlangus’s nephew, Gideon Mahlangu, said he hopes that the sacrifices made by the 1976 students could serve as an educational monument for the youth.
Today, young people are enjoying the fruits of freedom, including equality education. Nineteen-year-old Nonhlanhla Radebe acknowledged that there is equal education for all races in South Africa, “it’s just a matter of how you receive it and what you make out of it.”
Despite the good fight that was fought, many young people across the world are still facing major challenges, which include unemployment. Resolution Circle Intern, Lerato Modimola (22) said: “Our main struggle is the escalating number of the unemployment rate.”
Modimola added that “our fellow students are systematically being excluded from quality education due to financial constraints.”
Many black students still believe that today’s generation is still fighting some of the same battles which were fought for by 1976 youth. Tebogo Mabena, a grade 12 pupil at Naledi High School, Soweto, points out that black youth are still marginalised in the workplace. There is still a great deal of nepotism, and most managerial positions in private companies are still held by white men.
Mabena further said that, if this continues, it means that all white youth will have more privileges, perhaps get a better salary than black youth with the same qualifications and experience.
“Some universities still conduct lectures in Afrikaans, which I believe is not what our apartheid icons fought for,” said Mabena.
Apart from the hurdles that are faced by our youth, Radebe is of the belief that:
“our youth need to get their priorities straight and understand that the only way to make it in life is to work together by uplifting each other”.
Mabena also added that the only way to continue with the 1976 legacy is being more involved in politics and being visionaries fighting for a cause that is greater than us, which will be immensely beneficial for the next generation.