Reflections by Lindo Maso, a staff member of The Da Vinci Institute
This day in South Africa’s past marks a sad day of commemoration of the lives lost but also the courage that its youth showed in 1976. Their energetic and brave willingness to stand up to the status quo, set out by the then political circumstances of the Apartheid regime, illustrated a determination to shift their educational experience and bring about true and meaningful change.
On this day in history, youth were turned into warriors in school gear, as they pronounced with bravura against the order of the day and its education policies, including teaching and learning in Afrikaans. To the youth’s dismay, their pronouncements were met with immense disdain from police officers of the old-guard and the only response at hand was a pistol’s bullet clashing with human flesh. Thus, death carried that day. In fact, for those that survived and saw another day, the scars of their misfortune are still a reminder to this day of that dreadful day in our history. The calamitous result of June 16, 1976 was inevitable, if we are to consider the lengthy build-up to it.
Thus, we should still commemorate the noble cause that those young warriors stood for on that day, every single year, as a collective appreciation of the courage that the young students of 1976 displayed. The immense dissatisfaction against what was perceived as unacceptable circumstances set them into common ground as a collective that they were against a cataclysmic tide. This signals the co-creational spirit in that era and the heavy responsibility that the students undertook. This was a youth carrying a dream and mission. They were driven by vision, passion, and inspiration, drawn from the harshest of their hardships, which happened to be the Apartheid government’s grim umbrella, with its limiting policies to certain segments of society, with detrimental consequences to the youth.
The burning desire for democracy became palpable and caused sufficient motivation for the young to take the onus upon themselves and co-create the future that they all equally yearned for and believed in. Liberty and equality, as well as a myriad of other democratic aspirations, are consequences to which their aims were set at, as the result of their struggle in action on the dusty township streets.
Peterson, other fallen victims, and the survivors of that calamitous day, are today rightfully revered as individuals that stood the test of their bravery. They sustained their visions for a future conducive to those that aspire to make a sustainable contribution to their environments. At the behest of their will in struggle, their visions came aligning through practical realisations in 1994, 18 years later. The youth of that era deserve a special credit for their participation in making our hard-won democratic order a possibility.
Today many of the young warriors of June 16 have evolved as role models of modern-day society. Hector Peterson’s premature death, and others’, were iconic and disastrous outcomes of the grimness to have ever befallen the young in that era.
Today, 45 years later, we are all living testimonies of the new order that we inhabit and, on behalf of the June 16th courage, we sure can testify that the actions of the fallen have indeed left a stellar impression to those that aspire to carry the fair-education-baton on. The baton carrying, of course, entails the involvement of the individual in continuous learning through education programmes. Or, alternatively, be active participants at crafting sustainable societal practices through socio-economic and technological activities. This is how we can honour the June 16 young warriors that paved the way almost half-a-century ago for the future – now our present.
This day should serve as a reminder not only of the tragedy at hand but also that through sheer dogged determination, the frontiers of socio-economic conventions can be penetrated (even dissected, for truth and relevance’ seeking). Even much more so when all forces of humanity, with their individual gifts, are in a vibrant co-creational spirit as the youth of 1976 were. The art of unity. In this manner, we enshrine the memory of June 16th 1976.
When words accompany action, a world of difference can be articulated and made. This is perhaps how we may presumably contribute to sustainable development, in such a fashion as co-creators. We honour the youth of yesterday, today, and tomorrow…