Youth Day: South Africa Remembers the Brutality of Apartheid on Youth

By Patrick F. Suttle

Each generation has its own place and time to shine against the fabric that makes up history. Throughout history’s landscape there always has been, in one way or another, some manifestation of a generation gap.

This past weekend, on June 16, 2012, it was South Africa Youth Day, a national holiday set aside to commemorate the students who lost their lives in the Soweto uprising in 1976. On this day 36 years ago students across that township joined together in a mass demonstration against Afrikaans as the medium of learning within the classroom.

These students stood firm behind the concept of Black Consciousness and took on the racist regime that tried to force them to be trained in a language that would only prepare them to be service providers to their oppressors. The students left their classrooms from schools across Soweto and joined together in a march toward Orlando Stadium. Before they reached their destination they were confronted by a squadron of SASP (South African Security Police).

This was a pivotal point in history and, based on most eye witness accounts, at some point the police opened fire on these unarmed children. This generation of young people faced their defining moment in time with courage and resolve. In the face of piercing rounds from automatic weapons and blinding tear gas from canisters lobbed in their midst, these young warriors took a blow and made a stand for future generations.When the violence ceased there were more than five hundred black lives snuffed out.

These children came together and took a bold initiative that planted a seed that would germinate as an underground movement for the next 18 years. In 1994, after years of sacrifice and massive loss of lives, their direct action on that day blossomed into the budding new Republic of South Africa of today. Those young students in 1976 displayed courage and bold leadership. Today, many of those same students from that generation stand in the vanguard as government and business leaders of the new South Africa.

Across this country, this weekend represented a time of celebration and remembrance of a dedicated group of children who sparked a revolution.Let the wave that rushed through a nation and redefined the framework of a society, rekindle its ferocity and redeploy that collective mentality. Let it uplift and build a solid educational framework that has the potential to turn out critical thinkers, prepared and poised to lead, direct and structure a cohesive and all inclusive society.



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