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What Youth Day Means to the Average South African

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

Today was Father's Day right around the world, but in South Africa the 16th of June is also Youth Day. It has been years ago since 200 school children were killed in an instant by angry, brutal policeman. This happened in 1976, but nobody who was around at the time will have forgotten it.

I was about one, but you always hear of one boy who received the first bullet, and collapsed to the ground. Twelve year old Hector Pieterson was carried away, and died minutes later. 200 more kids died on that fatal day. Some were instantly killed, some died on the way to hospital and some lived a couple of weeks until their fatal day came.

Hector Pieterson

 

credit: flickr.com/pandrcutts

So what was the fuss about?

Simply, they were forced to learn to speak Afrikaans - the language of the government. Teachers were not qualified to teach it. However, this was language that the  government used on a daily basis. You didn't disobey their orders.

Exams were approaching and it was decided that they would take part in a mass demonstration on the 16th of June.  They didn't know what they were in for - they were met by a wall of policeman, dogs and tear gas. They started throwing stones. Finally the shots came. If you look at clips from this era, you will probably think to yourself - do these men in uniform actually think these small kids are human beings, or is it just target practice?

The Soweto Uprisings

Of course, this was not just a once off. This lead to 8 more months of violence all over the country. Over the years, times became tough for non-whites. They were not allowed to open a business in the townships. They were not allowed to practice as a doctor or lawyer. They could be arrested and detained without a trial. People were thrown out of their own homes - and it just got worse.

apartheid

Ths shot was taken in 1985 - My mother had a sticker on her car - it read, come alive, '85 - it took four more years for the government to come to their senses.

Moving on

It's definitely upsetting where you had to be separated from someone because of the color of your skin. I went with a friend of mine to a mall in the 80's when we were just kids. I had no idea why we were getting strange stares. Now I know, it was illegal for her to be in a white area - unbelievable!

Yes, times may be tough now - we have a lot of crime, we complain about our present situation all the time, but we are free. My mom does not have to organize secret meetings with women from the townships - life threatening stuff

In 2010 youth day was celebrated in style - South Africa hosted the soccer world cup and all nations, all races stood on the field in unity.

Hopefully we will always be able to remember this day and take something out of it. Hopefully the role of education will become stronger as will democracy.

I hear a lot of people on social media and basically all over the place complaining about the situation in their country. Can you think of just one thing where there has been a drastic change for the better?

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