Current generation hail their 1976 counterparts

Simamkele Dingaan is grateful to the Class of '76.

Grade 12 pupil at New Eisleben High School Mabhulwana Somwahla, 21, believes the June 16 commemoration plays a vital role in reminding young people how the education they enjoy today was obtained. Mabhulwana says the day recognises the brave efforts made by the youth of 1976 and those who died on that day.

The youth of today, however, he says, seem not to understand the importance of June 16 and instead of commemorating the day, they spend it drinking in taverns.

Despite the great inroads made by the government and the youth of 1976 in changing the education system, Mabhulwana says it is still an uphill battle for many black people to enrol in institutions of higher learning due to high tuition fees.

“Many black people are dropping out of universities because they can’t afford the fees,” he says.

“As a result, some have turned to crime to make ends meet. We are besieged with gangsterism and the grinding poverty levels. I appeal to the government to do more to make education accessible to black people. And I also urge the youth to grab the opportunities that we have been afforded to study,” he said.

Busiswe Nkunzi, 27, describes June 16 as a crucial day in the history of South Africa, particularly for black people.

She says the day highlights some of the struggles black people had to overcome to obtain the freedom the country now enjoys.

She adds that the commemorations also illustrate that if young people work together, they can defeat the current challenges they face. “We need to study and better our lives in order to uplift our communities,” she says.

“The heroic actions of the youth of 1976 should not be in vain. They have given us an opportunity to make our lives better and we should capitalise on that and make them feel proud knowing that they died for a cause.”

Siyabonga Makheleni, 27, heap-ed praised on the efforts of the youth of 1976, saying that they sacrificed being with their families and loved ones to fight for the current generation to have a better future than them.

He adds that they had been willing to die to change the education system. “I say to their families: they should not cry on this day but rejoice (in the knowledge) that their children were among the pupils who brought quality education to the country and we as the current youth should follow on their footsteps,” he explained.

Simamkele Dingaan, 24, expressed her sincere gratitude to the youth of 1976, describing them as the embodiment of bravery.

Were it not for them, she says, the country would not have obtained the freedom it enjoys today because their actions reinforced the fight against apartheid.

“We need to acknowledge this day with the dignity it deserves and at same time urge the government to create youth platforms that would allow us as a young people to discuss issues facing us on this day,” she says.