The youth of 1976 had a dream for the youth of today…

The photo of Hector Peterson, one of the first students to be killed in the 1976 student rebellion in Soweto, Johannesburg. He became the iconic image of the 1976 Soweto uprising in apartheid South Africa when a newspaper photograph by Sam Nzima - of the dying Hector being carried by a fellow student - was published around the world.

There’s been debates on whether the youth of today is free or not and it’s still debatable to this day.

The concept of freedom is in one’s mindset.

 June 16 is a public holiday in South Africa and commemorates a protest which resulted in a wave of protests across the country known as the Soweto uprising of 1976.

Read: Why do we celebrate Youth day?

On this Day, South Africans honour young people and bring attention to their needs.

This is a day to remember,  that even a unborn grandchild would know about one day.


It marks a year when the youth of this country was tired.

That’s when the youth marched for their rights.

That’s when the youth decided to fight for themselves not letting anyone else fight for them.

Tyre’s were burned. Today we just rejoice and find ourselves floating on cloud nine because, “It is just another public holiday.”

So many of us have cherished this day, as a day of drinking, parting and being with family.

The ‘US’, you may ask who we are referring to?

Well it is the youth of South Africa, that can only sing “Freedom is coming tomorrow” very well without knowing the significance of that freedom,  and what it took for this freedom to come.

Watch the clip out of Sarafina-the movie:

Read: Guess which Youth Day film this is?

Youth Day in South Africa is a little different to other public holidays.

It doesn’t have quite the same celebratory feel. It doesn’t have as many straight associations such as presents for Ramadan, Christmas, fireworks for New Year celebrations, or even just to be with family for Family Day.

In fact, it even differs from worldwide celebrations of “Youth Day” which 15 countries celebrate for themselves. There are even a World Youth Day which is associated with the Roman Catholic Church.

In fact, I’m not too sure what the rest of South Africa is doing on June 16.

If there had to be a national action on Youth Day it would probably have to be googling Hector Pieterson, Solomon Mahlangu and comparing the struggles of the youth during apartheid, to struggles — of education, poverty, leadership and identity — now.

Image: The Hector Peterson Memorial in Soweto.

And while this may not hold symbolism or the right amount of conscious commemoration, remembering and investigating what Youth Day is, is an important part of Youth Day.

And this is the right feeling for Youth Day: commemoration, evaluation, appreciation for the good changes and refocusing on the changes that have not happened yet.

There was too much terror and violence during the Soweto uprising of 1976, and too much that still needs to be done, for Youth Day to be the type of celebration that other public holidays enjoy.

Let we take you back to the June 16, 1976.

The youth of South Africa marched down the streets of Soweto for this freedom we have today.




Parents feared for the lives of their children, but who knew that adolescents could be so brave?

They stood together in unity, the same unity we lack today.

The iconic photo that was taken on June 16 1976. Image:

Fought for what was right and that came with their African roots, which we no longer honour today, they fought against the usage of what they feel was an injustice.

And look where it left us today. We have the right to choice and the freedom of association.

They left us with the courage to say “WE ARE PROUDLY SOUTH AFRICANS”

Hector Pieterson and Solomon Mahlangu are just two examples of many people who have died for the betterment of our generation and for that, as a youth, we must always be grateful.

Youth month is a constant reminder that the youth of today have an imperative role to play in society, that we have, in fact, taken up the baton to continue the legacy of the youth of 1976 in creating a truly open and fair society.

Youth month is an indication to us that, South Africa and the world must never forget the value of the youth in society and we must constantly work towards developing our youth to ensure the sustainability of our nation.

Our youth is the future.

Unemployment is currently high in our country and the government needs to do more to help entrepreneurs partake in the betterment of the economy, unemployment will be alleviated since entrepreneurship employs more than any other industry/sector.

Read: Youth Day: Ten questions answered


Thomas Nkgugu & Kabelo Letswalo

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