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Celebrating Youth Day in South Africa - June 16th

06/15/2009

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Youth Day in South Africa

On June 16th in South Africa, people commemorate the start of the Soweto riots of 1976. On this day, high-school students in Soweto started protesting for better education. Police responded with tear gas and live bullets. Youth Day is now a South African national holiday. It honors all the young people who lost their lives in the struggle against Apartheid and Bantu Education. The iconic picture of Hector Pieterson, a black school child shot by the police, brought home to many people within and outside South Africa the brutalities of the Apartheid regime.

In 1953 the Apartheid Government of South Africa enacted The Bantu Education Act. This act established a Black Education Department in the Department of Native Affairs. The goal of this department was to compile a curriculum that suited the "nature and requirements of the black people." The author of the legislation, Dr Hendrik Verwoerd (then Minister of Native Affairs, later Prime Minister), stated: "Natives [blacks] must be taught from an early age that equality with Europeans [whites] is not for them." Black people were not supposed to receive an education that would lead them to aspire to positions they wouldn't be allowed to hold in society. Instead they were only allowed to receive education designed to provide them with skills to serve their own people in the homelands or to work in laboring jobs under whites. Thanks to the youth of South Africa, they didn't stand for this treatment and on June 16th thousands of black students walked from their schools to Orlando Stadium for a rally to protest against the the Apartheid regime. Today is a day to commemorate those students and to celebrate the sacrifices others have made for equality, education, and freedom. Find out more about African culture and holidays on the Africa Imports web site by Clicking Here.