Youth Day: lessons from 1976


13 June 2011

Young South Africans say they will be celebrating this year’s Youth Day by standing up and confronting the challenges they face – just like their compatriots did in 1976.

Youth Day is a public holiday celebrated in South Africa every year on 16 June and pays tribute to the hundreds of students who lost their lives during the 1976 uprisings in Soweto.

Taelo Mokoena from Houghton, Johannesburg, said there are great lessons to learn from the students of the 1976 uprisings. He said although today’s youngsters are not fighting for the same things, they are also facing challenges that they need to liberate themselves from, such as unemployment, poverty and crime.

“We need to come out of a mindset where we as youth wait for the government to do things for us. We need to liberate ourselves from our circumstances and take up opportunities that are available to us and build a better future for ourselves.”

Mokoena said the biggest lesson young people of today should learn from those in 1976 is the courage to fight for change. “We should always celebrate June 16 because the courage of the youth then proved to us that it is possible for young people to bring change in our country.”

‘It didn’t come easy’

“Unemployment and HIV/Aids are the two major struggles the youth today are faced with,” said Dikeledi Madau from Rustenburg, North West. “We must use the example set by the students of 1976 to inspire our youth to dedicate themselves to being empowered and fighting HIV/Aids, in the same way the youth of 1976 dedicated their lives to defeat apartheid.”

Madau said young South Africans remain a central part of the country’s success. “For this country to grow and develop, the youth need to be empowered. The development of the youth is central to the transformation of this country and the enhancement of the lives of all South Africans.

“We need to always keep the awareness; we can never allow that kind of oppression to exist again in our country,” said Thato Sibeko from Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape.

“Our country has come far in achieving the growth our youth enjoy today – we need to protect that because it didn’t come easy. We need to keep the knowledge of our history conscious in our youth, to encourage them to be daring and face their challenges and succeed.”

Sibeko said the day should be used to take stock of the progress the country and its youngsters have made. “We should use this time to celebrate the strides we have made since that day. We should also take this time to reboot and gear up to continue to empower young people.”

“Our student heroes of 1976 were fighting to change the political situation of this country back then. I strive to change the socio-economic environmental of our country today,” said Thabiso Tladi from Pinetown in KwaZulu-Natal.

“By educating myself and helping other young people also get an education I am fighting for change. I am fighting to see all young South Africans realise the benefits of the uprising.”

Tladi offers career guidance to high school students in his community and helps them apply for bursaries and scholarships, and secure a place at tertiary institutions.

“We all now have equal opportunities to study and pursue our dream careers and live a better life. The challenge now is to assist young people with information and resources to realise that dream, and reap the rewards that the youth of 1976 fought and died for.”

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