#YouthDay: Events that triggered the Soweto uprising

The infamous picture of Hector Pieterson being carried by his brother, Mbuyiso Makhubo. His sister Antoinette Sithole, runs beside him. The picture became the face of the Soweto uprising.

Events that triggered the uprising can be traced back to policies of the Apartheid government that resulted in the introduction of the Bantu Education Act in 1953 – South African History Online (SAHO).

Bantu Education was part of the government system that included homelands, urban restriction, pass laws and job reservation. It was designed to train Black people for their role of serving the privileged race. Black schools were discriminated against and they had little access to the government facilities.

According to South African History Online (SAHO), the June 16, 1976 uprising that began in Soweto, spread across the country changing social-political landscape.

Vehicles and buildings were stoned, set alight and two white officials were beaten to death.  Police continued to use force in an attempt to crush the riots. On the day of the uprising, about 20, 000 students marched peacefully to demonstrate and protest against government oppressive orders.

SAHO wrote that students were met by heavily armed police who fired teargas and live ammunition during the protest. About 566 schoolchildren were killed. A 12-year-old Hector Pieterson was the first to be killed.

Long before the Apartheid government, there was a system of segregated and unequal education in the country, State aided mission schools.   Ninety percent of black South Africans were forced into state aided mission school which were compulsory and expanding, black education was sorely neglected. (SAHO)

SAHO reports that Bantu Education increased from the late 1960s, when the Apartheid Nationalist government introduced a trained African labour force. In 1972, the government gave in to pressure from business to improve the Bantu Education system to meet business’s need for a better trained black workforce.

Source: www.sahistory.org.za

Anele Nduzulwana

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