40 years since 16 June 1976

John 15:12-13 reads:
“12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I loved you.
13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

I just want to share a brief history for those who may not know what happened 40 years ago on this date.

On the 16th of June, 1976, the youth of Soweto decided to finally stand up in solidarity against the Bantu Education system they were subjected to by the Apartheid Government. This education system is said to have been built to achieve what the American defines as ‘killing the mind while strengthening the body’. This system robbed most non-white learners of the kind of education that could move them out of a state of dependency and poverty. It was meant to feed the laws of segregation that the Apartheid government had created while maintaining the mental starvation of anyone who could dare to challenge such laws.

So, on this day forty years ago, the youths of Soweto decided that enough was enough. They took it upon themselves to fight against a system that had robbed prior generations from a decent education and would possibly do the same to future generations as well. They did this knowing that they would probably be killed in the process. So they really weren’t doing it for their own gain, they were doing it for us – the future generations of South African scholars.

This defining moment in South Africa’s educational history was a true demonstration of love! These young people, some yet in primary school (12/13 years old) sacrificed their lives so that we would have, not only decent but, world class education. All this happened in the critical years of Apartheid…

A few months before it was exactly twenty years after the uprising and two years after the first democratic election, I was born. I cannot claim to have been any of these courageous young people’s friend, but I sure do believe that the love they had for the future of this country touched me as well.

Well, allow me to send my gratitude:

Firstly, I am sorry that there was no other way
I am sorry that we could not all benefit from your sacrifice in your presence
I am sorry to the families that lost their children for my sake and that of the current  and future generations of scholars
Secondly, thank you
Thank you for the courage you had
Courage that I may have never had if the situation was reversed
Thank you for paving the way for people like me to work towards making a better South Africa for all who live in it
Thank you for your Christ-like love for people you never even got to meet

Although we can never repay the sacrifice, and we are not expected to; each test and exam we take is a testament that it was not in vain. I have been to very good schools and am now in a good academic institution. I, therefore, know the significance of a curriculum. I know the importance of a systematic setup in how people are educated. And I can testify that most of what I have achieved is a result of such setups in the education I have received. Yes, I will admit, there is still quite a way to go with our public schools but at least we have the ability and the opportunity to improve them. The youth of 1976 did their part and beyond, whatever happened thereafter was the responsibility of that specific generation.

We also have a role as the youth of 2016 and, while we have achieved a lot already but, we still have quite a journey to walk. Do not isolate yourself from the masses. Individualism and this obsession with ‘self-centeredness’ will not get us anywhere. South Africa was built on principles of community and when we stand together we can achieve the impossible! Praise the Lord that we are no longer being killed for justice – what a time to be alive!

This I leave you with, be grateful for that which was done for you by at least doing your best to ensure that others get to enjoy the same blessing after you. Sometimes that could simply mean that you should not break your government school chair or write on your private school desk. While other times it could means taking up a board to join a march…

Happy Youth Day

Kay-Dee Mashile

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