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Photo by Bongani Mnguni/City Press/Gallo Images/Getty Images.

On 16 June 1976 high-school students in Soweto, South Africa, protested for better education. Police fired teargas and live bullets into the marching crowd killing innocent people and ignited what is known as "The Soweto Uprising", the bloodiest episode of riots between police and protesters since the 1960s.

South Africans to Commemorate 44th Anniversary of Soweto Student Uprisings

South Africans will celebrate Youth Day this June 16th––here's what you need to know about the historic day.

South Africans will commemorate the 44th anniversary of the Soweto Uprisings tomorrow. Youth Day, commemorated on June 16th, honours the student-led protests of 1976 which challenged the education system under the Apartheid regime. In the past, South Africans have celebrated by participating in various events across the country in addition to massive rallies held by a number of political parties. However, in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing measures, many of the celebrations will take place online.


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The Soweto Uprisings saw between 3000-10 000 South African students leading peaceful marches against being forced to learn in Afrikaans—the language of their oppressors—as well as being subjected to an overall sub-standard Bantu Education system. On June 16th, the Apartheid police opened fire on the unarmed students and killed at least 174 including 13-year-old Hector Peterson, the teenager whose image has since become a worldwide symbol of the protests.

Former Prime Minister of the racist National Party and "Architect of Apartheid", Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd, is on record saying, "There is no place for [the African] in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour." He added that, "It is of no avail for him to receive a training which has as its aim, absorption in the European community." Naturally, Verwoerd was a fierce advocate for the Bantu Education system.

Thus, Youth Day is a day where South African youth especially, reflect on the contributions of their predecessors towards the fight against Apartheid. While the segregationist regime was the proverbial Goliath for youth back then, poverty, inequality and increasing unemployment rates are the challenges facing South African youth today.

Read more about the Soweto Uprisings here.

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