June is celebrated as Youth Month in South Africa, with a specific focus on 16 June, which is also known as Youth Day. Youth Month pays tribute to the school pupils who lost their lives during the 16 June 1976 uprising in Soweto.
This year marks the 39th anniversary of the Soweto uprisings, and in honour of this, the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) has developed a national programme under the theme of "Youth Action for Economic Freedom in Our Lifetime".
16 June 1976
On 16 June 1976, more than 15 000 students gathered at Orlando West Secondary School with the intention of participating in a peaceful march to the nearby Orlando Stadium. The demonstration had been planned in protest against the use of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction at schools.
However, the police and armed forces responded to the protest violently and the first fatality of the day was Hector Pieterson, a 12-year-old pupil who was shot by the police. It is believed that 175 others were also killed that day.
This violent backlash to what was meant to be a peaceful march caught the attention of the international community. After this event, many countries imposed sanctions on South Africa in an attempt to force the apartheid government to ease its repressive rule.