This year’s Youth Day, on 16 June, is happening while the country is in lockdown level three. The larger 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 16 June? 

Youth Day commemorates the 16 June 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 happened on 16 June?

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 in 2021?

Youth Day 2021 in South Africa will be different than previous years because gatherings are still 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:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Visit the Apartheid Museum

While an important space for understand the entire history and downfall of Apartheid, this museum also represents and honours the youth who fought for equality during the Soweto Uprising.

4. Visit the Iziko Museum for free

Every year, on 16 June select Iziko Museums in Cape Town are free to the public from 10am to 2pm. Browse fascinating South African art and artifacts.

5. Join the walking tour from Hector Pieterson Museum to Mandela House

This guided tour takes you on an historical journey through everyday life in Soweto during Apartheid, with particular reference and explanation of the Soweto Uprising.

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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