16 June is commemorated annually in South Africa as Youth Day and forms part of the greater celebrations of Youth Month. The origins of this holiday lie in 16 June 1976, when a group of students in Soweto led protests against the sub-standard and inferior Bantu Education system which was designed for black South Africans by the apartheid government.
Today, marks 44 years since these students and many others across the country stood up against the apartheid government, risking their lives in the fight for equality and freedom in South Africa. Since then many other youth-led movements have pushed for further freedoms including: the decolonization of education within tertiary institutions, end to systemic racism within institutions, the removal of racist symbols from our communities and free higher education.
The current protests calling for an end to police brutality against African Americans and racial discrimination in the United States are another example of the power of young people to mobilise against injustice and push for societal change.
Time and time again, young people have led change and continue to demonstrate to us all that meaningful democracy, equality, social justice, access, integrity and compassion should form the pillars of our society.
From all of us at the Embassy in Washington, DC, I would like to wish all young people a wonderful Youth Day and remind them to continue to work towards positively shaping South Africa’s socio-economic landscape and building our country.
-Ambassador Nomaindiya Mfeketo