Remembrance Taken For Granted

. June 15, 2014 . 2 Comments

by Eben Johannes

It is that time of year where students nervously enter their exam locations, anxious and ready to tackle that paper. As for some of us this will be a leap of faith, some writing for the last time. I would like to wish them all of the best.


As a teacher in training, I had the privilege of working with some schools in my community, forming a close relationship with the learners and teachers. I have seen the worst and the best; learners not appreciating what they have, how hard the teachers work to improve learners’ abilities and create knowledgeable young people. Today learners have technology at their fingertips; white interactive boards, flat screen TV’s, and some schools even have i-libraries. In some schools learners are fortunate enough to be taught in their home language, whilst schools offer a variety of languages.  However, some of our learners take these opportunities for granted. They vandalize school property; write on walls and seats, disrespect teachers and some refuse to come to school and becoming yet another statistic.


38 years ago, on 16th June 1976, high school learners of Soweto protested against the Department of Bantu Education’s decision to make Afrikaans the medium of instruction in black schools. The police got involved and the protesters were thrown with teargas and shot with bullets. After these clashes, unofficial totals of between 200 and 600 were proclaimed dead; most of them being students in their uniforms. What is profound about 16th June is that the learners fought for their educational rights. Sadly most of them were not able to see the change.

Hector_pieterson 8151874

Through all this brutal fighting a young boy Hector Pieterson got caught between the bullets and died. The image of Hector being carried through the streets is an image that has been popularised through exhibitions, concerts etc. Many commemorate this day through these mediums or simply by wearing their school uniforms on this day. Others take this day for granted, by partying, getting drunk and remembering these learners’ lives in a total disrespectful manner.


Youth Day is a day of remembrance; celebrating those learners who have died while fighting for our future. We live in a diverse country full of stories and heritage yet it saddens me to see what our youth are doing for their future. We take the bit of education we receive for granted whereas some children are hungry and longing for a bit of education.  On 16th June I would like to urge all of you to take a moment out of your busy lives and tell the story of 16th June to our children. I urge you to show them the film “Sarafina” which beautifully depicts the actual event of this historical day.


Personally, I believe Youth Day is a day of reflection upon people fighting for their rights; a day to reflect on the changes especially in our Educational Sector. Sadly, these learners died while fighting for their education and future, a future they never saw. The message of Youth Day is summarized in the words of the late Tata Nelson Mandela:


During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.


Let’s make 16th June a day that our future leaders won’t ever forget, because these learners paid with their lives to fight for their rights.


Category: Archived ECHO 1, Uncategorized

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