Today marks 44 years since the Soweto Uprising Massacre, that happened in 1976 on the 16th of June, where hundreds of students in Soweto took to the streets to boycott Bantu education and the inequality of the education system in the country and later the protests spread across the country.
Bantu education was introduced in 1953 by the Apartheid regime, where black students were forced to use Afrikaans and English as the medium language of learning and teaching. The educational system was designed to ‘train and fit’ Africans for their role in the newly (1948) evolving apartheid society. Education was viewed as a part of the overall apartheid system including ‘homelands’, urban restrictions, pass laws, and job reservations. This role was one of laborer, worker, and servant only. As H.F Verwoerd, the architect of the Bantu Education Act (1953), conceived it:
The government was spending far more on White education than on Black education, R644 was spent annually for each White student, while only R42 was budgeted for a Black school child. In 1976 there were 257 505 pupils enrolled in Form 1 at high schools which had a capacity for only 38 000 students.
Students mobilized to protest against these acts that suppress black students, it was estimated that 20 000 students took part in the protest, young and old, They were met by Violent Police officers who opened fire and Teargas to the demonstrater which led students to Riot and retaliate with stones to the Police, Among the first students to be shot dead were 15-year-old Hastings Ndlovu and 13-year-old Hector Pieterson, who was shot at Orlando West High School.
The photographer Sam Nzima took a photograph of a dying Hector Pieterson as he was carried away by Mbuyisa Makhubo and accompanied by his sister, Antoinette Sithole. The photograph became the symbol of the Soweto uprising. The police attacks on the demonstrators continued and 23 people died on the first day in Soweto. Among them was Dr. Melville Edelstein, who had devoted his life to social welfare among blacks. He was stoned to death by the mob and left with a sign around his neck proclaiming “Beware Afrikaans is the most dangerous drug for our future”.
It was said that 176 people died but it was estimated that 700 students were killed during these protests across the country and thousands were injured.
The results of the protest resulted in formations of The rise of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) and the formation of South African Students Organisation (SASO) raised the political consciousness of many students while others joined the wave of anti-Apartheid sentiment within the student community.
The bloodshed and sweat have produced magnificent results in the education system, as better education for all has been established, although it’s still a journey to Free education in Tertiary institutions.
LONG LIVE THE SPIRIT OF OUR YOUNG HEROES!