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Bantu Education & the Soweto Generation


"E tshwana (sic) le phate ea mahlatsa ha e tshelwa (sic) sefahlehong sa ngwana wa motho e motsho."

(It's like vomit poured onto the face of a black child)

- Curtis Nkondo's description of Bantu Education.

In 1955, Bantu Education was introduced. From the outset it was badly financed and teachers were paid very low wages. Libraries and laboratories were under resourced. There were far too many pupils per class and a system of double sessions was introduced that utilised unqualified teachers. Despite the fact that most parents were desperately poor, the state did not provide any stationery or textbooks as it did in white schools.

Even when Africans managed to get an education, this was often a liability as it was virtually impossible to get employment in industry. It was glaringly obvious that under apartheid black people's talents were not meant to be fully developed or their skills adequately used. 

It was a 1975 directive from the Bantu Education Department that Afrikaans be used as a language of instruction in secondary schools that sparked protests against this issue, and more broadly, the inadequacy of the system of Bantu Education. These protests culminated on 16 June 1976 when more than 20 000 pupils from Soweto began a protest march. Clashes with the police ensued, violence spread, lasting a few weeks, resulting in the death of around 700 hundred people, many of them youths, and  widespread destruction of property.

June 16 is now a public holiday known as Youth Day in South Africa, in honour of the many young people who were killed that day. It is commemorated annually with planned events across the country to address youth matters.


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