Youth Day, a day of sacrifice in the quest for equality

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In modern day society, equality is a concept which we are all too familiar with. Yet, in bygone days, equality was merely a dream. A whimsical wish that many were denied.

For this reason, June 16 marks a special moment in South African history. It is a day which played a role in the fall of an unjust system.

As we celebrate Youth Day, what is the importance of the day? Where does it stem from?

Youth Day commemorates the Soweto Youth Uprising of June 16, 1976. An uprising which spread countrywide, changing the very socio-political landscape in South Africa.

The events which triggered the uprising can be traced to the policies of the Apartheid government, with the introduction of the Bantu Education Act in 1953. In the Act, it was stipulated that Afrikaans be used as a medium of instruction for certain subjects. A decision which many were not happy with.

Uniting as one, more than 20 000 learners from Soweto began a protest march. Showing that they would no longer be silenced and forced to take classes in a language they were not comfortable with. However, their protest march was met by heavily armed police who fired teargas and later live ammunition on demonstrating students.

This resulted in a widespread revolt which would see people rise up against the government. An uprising which proved to have dire consequences for the old government, with images of police shooting at the peaceful demonstrators making international headlines.

The iconic Soweto Uprising photograph showing Mbuyisa Makhubu carrying 12-year-old Hector Pieterson who was shot by police, as Hector’s sister, Antionette Pieterson running alongside them. This image reflected the brutality of the Apartheid regime. (Photo credit:
The Apartheid government’s brutality exposed to the world; the unjust system developed cracks which would see the eventual fall of the regime.

Now, 43 years after the protest where scores of children were killed and injured in the fight against inequality, we as South Africans now can reap the rewards of their actions.

With the day earmarked as a public holiday, where we can spend time with friends and family, the Newcastillian wishes all its readers an enjoyable Youth Day.  

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