Youth Day is a reminder of the massacre that took place on 16 June 1976 between and police and protesting school pupils, and a realisation of a vision and a dream fought for by thousands of South African youth. It is a celebration of power, unity and youth and how we as young people can make a lasting impact in the world if we work together. Never again can we remain silent in the face of injustice and still when faced with prejudice. We look back at 16 June, 1976, not only to reflect on how far we have come, but also to remind ourselves to keep moving forward and to never go back. It is imperative that the youth of today see the strides our fallen heroes were able to make, with little to nothing on their side apart from their willpower, passion and a determination to fight. They valued education, they were hungry for knowledge, and they wanted to unlock their full potential.
16 June means freedom of education - it represents a turning point in South Africa, and today’s youth ought to value the opportunities at their disposal, which are a direct result of the Soweto Uprising. But we, the youth of today are still fighting our own battles, such as lack of access to education, high tuition fees, unemployment at an all-time high, inequality, poverty, hopelessness and gender-based violence. These battles might not be as bloody as the ones fought by the 1976 youth, but they are still a painful illustration of a government not doing enough for a generation hungry to succeed.
The youth of 1976 stood up for something they believed in and instilled a fight within every one of us. Socially and economically, people of colour are still struggling, but at the same time, are still fighting. The youth of 1976 used a peaceful approach but were still met with violence; the youth of today are not so courteous and yet are still met with violence, and this needs to change. But, most importantly, the youth of today need hope. We are constantly faced with news and media that reminds us that we cannot make it, and that even with a degree or a skill the figures are against us and we are bound to fail in a crumbling economy. We need a renewed hope, a sense of purpose and the promise of a better tomorrow. I believe the youth of 1976 felt the same way and did something about it, and so should we.
Author: Elma Akob