South Africa celebrates youth day today in commemoration of the 38th anniversary of the 1976 Soweto uprisings.
On this day, 38 years ago, a group of schoolchildren set off from Morris Isaacson, located in Orlando, Soweto, to protest against Afrikaans being the medium of instruction and against the Bantu system of education, which was co-ordinated without the intention of supplying the black youth of a quality education or to ever create empowerment amongst the group.
From the protest stemmed a tense standoff with the police at the time, which ended in gunfire from the police, who opened fire into the crowd of children. Following this, the township was sealed off. Subsequently many struggle leaders fled into exile, realising the gravity of the situation at hand.
But today, the education system in the very area which the struggle for a higher quality of accessible education occurred, the state of affairs is not markedly better. According to a Soweto NGO, the Each One Teach One foundation, the situation is still dire today. “Our schooling environment in Soweto is plagued by drug abuse, religious maladies like Satanism, violence, including rape and murder, financial challenges and collapsing infrastructure, with over 128 schools disused,” said the foundation’s secretary general, Jabu Kumalo, in a statement which he made this weekend.
In Kimberley today many gathered at the Galeshewe stadium to witness the government’s national Youth Day commemoration. Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the crowds of young men and women, all donning their white “Youth Day” t-shirts, who had just received food parcels at the entrances. The inside of the stadium contained many government department marketing stands and musicians entertaining small crowds.
President Jacob Zuma, who would have been in attendance at the event, was absent due to fatigue-related illness following a tiring election campaign earlier this year. He is, however nearly fully recovered and will apparently resurface on Tuesday for the first time in two weeks to deliver the party’s state-of-the-nation address.