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16th of June 1976

The 16th of June marks the beginning of the end of Apartheid.  On that day high school students showed their contempt for an education system which sole purpose was to raise automatons that were supposed to fill the posts of menial labour.

These students, a product of this education system, showed their elders and the oligarchic regime that they will fight for their own liberation.

The government decided that black pupils had to be educated in three languages.  Their mother tongue was for religious instruction, music and physical education; Afrikaans to be used for mathematics, history and geography; English was to be used for general science, practical subjects and agriculture.  Their marks dropped and no matter what the parents and authorities did, nobody heeded their pleas.

Black Consciousness was slowly but surely spreading through the communities and it was this awareness of self which gave the youth the courage to stage this demonstration.

In their thousands they gathered, the crowd gathering momentum, singing freedom songs, waving their placards.  The police patrolled the protestors and anxious parents asked whether they were going to shoot the children.  The police replied no as the children were marching peacefully.   The first stone was apparently thrown by a police officer and Soweto erupted into a war zone.

What followed was the systematic, violent dismantling of a savage political system over the next 18 years.

The visual story of the Youth Uprising has been documented in the Hector Pieterson Museum.

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