Youth Day is celebrated in South Africa every year on June 16. Also called National Youth Day, the day marks nation-wide celebration and programs around the country. While many people may have heard about the day and the celebrations that accompany it, not many are aware of the reasons behind the celebration of the day. Here is all you need to know about South Africa’s National Youth Day.
It commemorates the Soweto Uprising
In 1974, an official order was passed in South Africa that mandated that subjects like algebra, mathematics and social studies would only be taught in Afrikaans and home science and general science would only be taught in English. Afrikaans was seen as a language of the oppressive, ruling white minority and making them compulsory in schools meant that most black students would not be eligible for admissions or wouldn’t be able to cope with studies.
To express their opposition of the order, students of Orlando West Junior High School stayed home from school on April 30, 1976 and on June 16, 1976 thousands of black school students went on a rally to Orlando Stadium from their school to peacefully protest the order. The ensuing riots claimed the lives of hundreds of young students though in the long run, the Soweto Uprising was seen as a pivotal turning point in the South African liberation campaign.
It celebrates the energy of the youth and their role in ending apartheid
A lot of young black students lost their lives during the protests including 12 year old Hector Pieterson. In South Africa’s history, these protests marked a significant change in the way the ruling white minorities viewed the passion, dedication and power of the oppressed black majority in the nation. The Soweto Uprising is known as a significant turning point which helped flocks of previously uninvolved black citizens emotionally connect to the anti-apartheid movement in the country.
The Uprising is also known to have charged the national sentiment into demanding the release of Nelson Mandela. Through Youth Day celebrations, the nation commemorates the students who lost their lives; it celebrates their passion for equality and their energy through musical concerts. Various youth centric programs are also organized to ensure that younger generations do not forget the sacrifices that children and young people not much older than them made to end apartheid in South Africa for good.
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