How can we redefine the current struggle?
The June 16 Soweto uprising celebrates its 39th anniversary this year. The day brings back different memories for different people especially those who were around at the time. The events of the day to those who were present are as clear as if it just happened yesterday. A few of them that I had conversations with told me that there were many issues to be dealt with at that time such as unfair laws in education that demanded the medium of instruction for a number of subjects (including maths and science) would be Afrikaans.
This clearly frustrated students who wanted change. They recognised the implications of such laws not only for them, but for generations to come. The world was not only South Africa, we were part of a global community. We needed to be able to interact and communicate with the outside world. And above all, having to learn these subjects in Afrikaans would make them more difficult, reducing the potential to excel in them, and in such post-school professions that required them. The final implication was clear: it would keep blacks from social and political advancement in an environment where they were already subjects of discrimination!
In contrast the issues the youth face today are vastly different to those of ‘76. The township youth I speak with mention feeling financial oppression compared to their white counter-parts who still enjoyed better positions than them, be that at school or work. The challenges of obtaining employment, whether graduate or not, further perpetuates the feeling of helplessness and dispiritedness. Often when we look at our youth we see the physical manifestations of these issues in excessive drug use, growing levels of depression and crime.
Contemporary youth also feel that the government is not helping them fully when it comes to financial aid particularly with regard to education. The question is: what needs to be done or what is the plan? The government needs to redefine the current struggle and support all the young people who are seeking help. The youth programmes to support the youth and stop leaving those in charge richer, to see and think of them as the future leaders of this country.
Although the struggles are different, the youth of today can extract from the bravery from the youth of ’76 by spearheading realistic campaigns that promote youth development that enable social cohesion where everyone contributes to bringing change not only for themselves but for the benefit of all. While there is still much work to be done, it is up to our youth to take up the challenge of carrying the baton from the class of ’76 who started this journey of transformation. Class of ’76, we salute you.