What does Youth Day mean to you?: Video
We all know June 16 is a public holiday. But what does the holiday mean?
Times LIVE’s multimedia team went out and asked the youth of today what the holiday means to them 36 years later.
On the morning of June 16, 1976, thousands of students in Soweto walked from their schools to Orlando Stadium for a rally to protest against having to learn through Afrikaans in school, the beginnings of the Bantu Education System, designed to keep non-white school children uneducated.
The protest was peaceful.
The students began the march only to find out that police had barricaded the road along their intended route, and in order to keep police unprovoked, the march continued on another route, eventually ending up near Orlando High School.
The thousands-strong crowd sang and waved placards with slogans such as, "Down with Afrikaans", and "If we must do Afrikaans, Vorster must do Zulu".
Then, a shot was fired, and the students started to panic. The police let their dogs loose on the children, who responded by stoning the dogs to death. The police then began to shoot directly at the children.
One of the first students to be shot dead was 13-year-old, Hector Pieterson, who was shot at Orlando West High School and became the symbol of the Soweto uprising, with a photo by Sam Nzima marking the event. The police attacks on the demonstrators continued. Though the violence abated by nightfall, police vans and armoured vehicles patrolled the streets throughout the night and into the day June 17.
The Soweto Uprising, as it has come to be known, was a turning point in the liberation struggle in South Africa. Prior to this event, the liberation struggle was being fought outside of the country, but from that moment onwards, the struggle became internal.
Now, the public holiday stands as a commemoration of the school children who marched that day for racial equality and equality in education, and died for freedom from apartheid rule.