This year’s Youth Day, better known as June 16, is happening while the country is in lockdown level 3. The usual June 16 events and gatherings cannot take place this year, but we can still commemorate the brave youths who lost their lives in the fight for equality.

Why do we celebrate Youth Day on June 16? 

Youth Day commemorates the June 16 youth uprisings that began in Soweto back in 1976. Thousands of South African youths took a stand against the Bantu Education Act that made it compulsory for black learners to learn certain subjects with Afrikaans as the medium of instruction. June 16 was the day that set the wheels of change in motion. 

What was happening on June 16?

Thousands of learners had planned to protest on June 16, 1976, peacefully, and got ambushed by apartheid police. Police opened fire, and it’s estimated that 176 students lost their lives, with over 4000 injured. The uprising resulted in international pressure and sanctions against the apartheid government.

Why is June 16 important to South Africans?

On June 16, we celebrate the sacrifice and contribution that the youth of this country had in fighting systematic oppression. The day seeks to recognize that the youth who lost their lives and had a tremendous impact on the liberation movement.  

How can we celebrate Youth Day 2020?

Youth Day 2020 in South Africa will be different than previous years because gatherings are not allowed, and social distancing is still the order of the day. But there are a few things you can do to commemorate the day.  

How do we honour Youth Day in lockdown? 

There are small things that we can do as individuals to commemorate the sacrifice that the students had to make at that time:

  •  Learn more about the history of our country

It’s essential to know what our country went through to get to where we are today. We still have a long way to go, but we have one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, and it’s through the sacrifice of those who protested during those times. Watch a documentary or read up on the liberation struggle.

  • Research the current movements that are happening in our country and support

Lending a helping hand can be as easy as a retweet or signing a petition. The struggle for equality is far from over, and there are various issues that you can lend your voice to.

  • Take care of yourself

June 16 is a public holiday, so take the day to relax. Living in unprecedented times is not easy. Life as we know it has completely changed and it can be taxing to your mental health. Take the day to practice some self-care; meditate, read a book or do any activity that brings you joy.

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