June 16th is a Public Holiday in South Africa commemorating the start of the Soweto Riots of 1976, sparked off by a government edict that all instruction in black schools would be held in Afrikaans.

The above picture of Hector Pieterson, a black schoolchild shot by the police in Soweto near Johannesburg during a peaceful process march, brought home the horrific memories of the Apartheid regime to many people within and outside of South Africa.

On that day, in this vicinity, around 15 000 school children came together to protest against the introduction of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction. As the students marched peacefully to present a memorandum at the Orlando Police Station, armed police confronted them with gunfire.

At least 700 students died and thousands were wounded. Thousands more were detained, tortured, charged and imprisoned. Up to 12 000 fled the country …”

Youth Day could be a conflict-ridden date, but instead it serves to remind South Africa of the importance of its youth and brings across the message that something like “the Soweto riots” should never happen again.

Youth Day is a national holiday in honour of all the young people who lost their lives in the struggle against Apartheid and Bantu Education.

On national Youth Day this Thursday, 16 June, we will honour and remember the heroic actions of the young people who took to the streets to stage a peaceful protest against an oppressive system of government 35 years ago, on 16 June 1976.