42 years since June 16 1976

16 June is Youth Day, South Africa commemorates the 1976 students uprising in Soweto which marks 42 years since the students took to the streets of Soweto in a peaceful protest for equality and quality education which unfortunately ended in bloodshed.

This day is more than a public holiday, it commemorates the courage displayed by students who stood against the apartheid government. Youth Day is a day South Africans pay tribute to the youth that was ambushed by the apartheid regime police in Soweto on 16 June 1976.

Going back in time…

On June 16, 1976, thousands of black students gathered to protest from their schools to Orlando Stadium. The students opposed the official order of making Afrikaans the compulsory medium of instruction in black township schools throughout the country. The use of local languages was prohibited in these schools whilst the constitution supported that Afrikaans and English be made the official languages of the country.

The rally was peaceful with the intention to plea with the government not to make Afrikaans compulsory in schools. Things escalated when the police were called in to disperse the crowds and riots broke out. Hundreds of students were killed as a result.

The number of people who died is usually given as 176 with some estimates up to 700. 15 000 uniformed pupils were there, the plan was to act against studying in Afrikaans.

42 years later…

This year marks the 42nd anniversary of the Soweto Uprising. Today, Youth Day in South Africa is a day to both honour the courage and sacrifice of the Soweto uprising youths and celebrate all young people. Marches and rallies are often held throughout the country in commemoration of the pivotal role young people have played in the battle against apartheid and in many other key aspects of South African history. Many people visit the Hector Pieterson memorial and museum in Orlando West, Soweto, to remember the young men and women whose sacrifice came to symbolise the injustice of apartheid to so many. Music and dance festivals have also become a traditional way of celebrating the vibrant energy of youth.

Youth Month has also become an opportunity to address the concerns facing today’s young people in South Africa. Various youth advocate groups and government programs use June 16 to shine a light on the substandard education and poor employment opportunities that have become a reality for many young people. Awareness campaigns, public discussion forums and historical education events have become popular ways to encourage better conditions for young people and ensure that South African youths continue to play a significant role in the country’s future.

Activities will be taking place across the country this whole month to celebrate and commemorate the youth of 1976 at the same time addressing issues faced by today’s youth and encouraging unity.

To celebrate youth month and its 16th year anniversary, Eskilz College is giving away 16 HR diploma bursaries to 2018 matriculants from Soweto. Write us an essay telling us why you deserve a bursary and why you want to study HR and stand a chance to win yourself one of 16 bursaries. Send your essay to

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