Almost 40 years ago, young black students swarmed the streets of many townships of South Africa from Soweto to Langa. June 16 is used to honour and commemorate the fallen youth who fought tirelessly against Bantu Education. Thousands of students risked their lives for what they believed in.
But students of today believe that the struggle has changed and the youth has its own struggles and triumphs. “We are a different youth, we have our own struggles and I think it is sad that our struggles are not realised or celebrated.” Says Mawande Mfecane, a student at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). Many students at the university share these sentiments and believe that it is time to start chanting new songs, not songs of freedom but songs of triumph.
“We might not be fighting against the apartheid regime but we are fighting against many other forces. Some of us live in shacks, we have no proper sanitation and the lack of service delivery from government is an everyday struggle, but we are pushing on,” says Zameka Kati, a second-year Chemical Engineering student at CPUT.
While the youth of today may know and understand the tragedy of June 16 1976, they feel strongly about the lack of appreciation for their everyday struggles. They spend the day drinking and going about their lives. They say this is because they feel a sense of disconnection and therefore don’t see the need to mourn and bury one’s head in the sand forever.
The youth has changed and so has the struggle. Today’s youth wants to be heard and celebrated as people of character and many possibilities.