This past week, the world commemorated the International Day of the African Child. Made official by the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union) on June 16, 991, the holiday remembers the 1976 massacre of 100s of Students who had gathered with thousands others in Soweto, South Africa to protest the several injustices they were subject to under the Apartheid government. The students, whose main grievances involved the inferior education they were receiving, were shot down in their dozens by the South African Security forces.
Since then, and especially after 1991, the continent and Diaspora has honored this day in a variety of ways, whether collectively or in their specific countries and communities.
It is no secret that the struggle for African political independence was an ugly one. It is also no secret that the Apartheid years represent an exceptionally dark period of the colonial era. Taking that into consideration and adding it to the gruesomeness of the Soweto Uprising Massacre, one can understand why there are very few images that better represent the African struggle of the past century than the immortal deceased of June 16, 1976.
Which leads us to the important question: what is it about a group of defenseless teenagers asking to be taught in their own language so incensed the brutal Boer forces that they felt they had to slaughter them in that manner
The answer, though sad, is very simple. The oppressive regime had stumbled upon one of life’s most solid truths: there is nothing more powerful, more inspiring, and more motivated than an organized group of young people who have embraced the essence of true education and realize how vital it is to their own community. If the security forces allowed the movement to manifest, they were allowing the germination of a resistance much more powerful than armed ‘rebels’.
The truth of the Soweto Uprising rings as true as it on that winter afternoon 36 years ago. When, and only when, the African youth have learnt to embrace the interlinked values of a well-rounded, home grown education and an unwavering sense of dedication to their communities, the continent will be unstoppable in its ascent from the global doldrums. The message rings as loud as it did in 1976 and 1991. The African child is armed with a book, a conscience, and a commitment to their land.
The movement has begun.