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On 16 June 2021, which is declared a public holiday, is a day set apart to recognise the bravery of protesters in Soweto, led predominantly by high school pupils who demonstrated against the South African Apartheid regime’s enforced introduction of Afrikaans as a medium of teaching in schools. 

The DUT Communications team’s, Nikiwe Sukazi spoke to some DUT students and staff about the significance of June 16 (Youth Day) and what the day means to them. 

Sharing his view is Fanelesibonge Ndlovu, a Third-year Analytical Chemistry student at DUT. 

“To me, Youth Day means that there are young people who once united to fight the injustices of our country. It also reminds me of the power we have as young people to change circumstances that we find ourselves in. It makes me reflect and think about what am I contributing to my community, country, and the world at large. It serves also as a motivation to keep chasing my dreams and impacting the lives of those around me. Lastly, as we commemorate Youth Day we should remember those lives that were shattered in order for us to receive the freedom that we have. But we as youth are in a constant struggle, right now we are fighting things like unemployment, depression and anxiety. We should continue carrying a baton forward to the next generation.” 

Samukelisiwe Fortunate Nhlabathi, an Administration Assistant at the Institute of Systems Science. 

“Youth Day means acknowledging the sacrifices of the 1976 youth that fought for our freedom during the apartheid era and the bettering of our education.  It’s also being mindful that though the struggle against Apartheid is over, the war against systemic discrimination is far from done. Although we can never take for granted what has been done in order for us to have the opportunities available to us but the work is incomplete. We are still facing a number of morbid realities: unemployment, poverty, education, substance abuse (to name a few) and all of which continue to steal from the potential of South Africa’s youth. As young people of South Africa we should continue to remain brave and use our privileges as a stepping ladder to help those who are in need.”  

Xoliswa Mkhize, an Advanced Diploma in Public Relations Student at DUT.  

“June 16 is a very important date to our South African history and must be embraced despite everything that is currently happening around us. I personally admire the heroes of 1976 because not only did they fight against the use of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction, but they liberated black students from the shackles of inferiority. It was not easy fighting a ruling and superior party at that time, but they fought and conquered! As a black student myself, this makes me want to study even further and educate the next generation about the history of education in our country. Lastly, I think it is also important that we remember and honour the lives that were lost during the struggle, the best way possible.”  

Zamani Mayeza, a Community Engagement Coordinator for the Faculty of Health Sciences.  

“June 16 means freedom of education. The protest that was done by the youth of 1976 brought us the freedom that the students of today have. We are now left with a responsibility to take it further and pass it to the next generation. It is in our hands to enhance and value education more. I am sure all our heroes whose lives were lost on the 16th of June in 1976 would be happy to see the youth elevating the level of education. This is not just a holiday but a day to embrace our freedom, freedom our young heroes fought hard for. We cannot shy away from the fact that COVID-19 robbed us of the opportunity to host events to commemorate Youth Day, nonetheless this day remains iconic.”   

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa also issued his Youth Day message on Monday, 14 June 2021, from the Desk of the President in Pretoria. 

According to the Youth Day press release, President Ramaphosa said: “We will be launching a range of additional measures to create opportunities, enhance skills development, support young entrepreneurs and enable the full participation of young people in the economy. This includes the establishment of a National Pathway Management Network, SA Youth, to make it easier for young people to view and access opportunities and receive active support to find pathways into the labour market. These are among the priority actions of the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention, which was launched just weeks before we entered a national lockdown last year and which is now entering full implementation,” said President Ramaphosa. 

He further said that South Africa is going through the most difficult of times, but the government are working daily to expand the frontiers of hope.  

“Our task now is to ensure that young people are ready and able to access these opportunities, and to create their own. This Youth Day, let us continue to work together as a nation to nourish these shoots of growth in pursuit of our common, brighter future,” said President Ramaphosa. 

Photo Credit: Google Images 

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