There is a saying that children should be seen, not heard, but on 16 June 1976, children decided it The Soweto Uprising came as a result of a law passed to force suppressed schools to teach in Afrikaans.
This made getting a proper education even harder for these children, as most of them and the teachers spoke Afrikaans only as a third language. The result was that the children organized an uprising to protest against Afrikaans in schools. A total of 15 000 learners were present at the uprising, opposed by police, anti-riot vehicles and roadblocks.
Even the army was placed on alert. As the first shots were fired, the violence grew and spread out to Alexandra. Even though official reports state that only 23 children were killed, SA History Online puts the number at 200. There were many effective photos taken on the day, but the one of Mbuyisa Makhubo carrying Hector Pieterson, after he was shot by police, shook the world to its core.
This photo, taken by ‘The World’ photographer Sam Mzila, become the iconic expression of the 1976 uprising and is still studied by many people in the country. This day serves as a reminder of the power that the youth holds. Through their actions, the youth can change the world – it is their responsibility whether it is for better or worse.
But, this responsibility should not be pushed onto the youth without giving them the necessary support to make this a possibility. Adults have the responsibility to support the youth and help them grow into adults that are ready to take over the responsibility of leading South Africa to a better future one day.
Youth Day falls in Child Protection Month – not by accident – and it serves as a double reminder to children that they have the power to change the world and adults that they have the responsibility to help guide and protect the youth.