14 June 2018

42nd year Anniversary of Youth Day



This year we celebrate the 42nd anniversary of the Soweto uprising.  June 16th, 1976 set off a two year uprising of the youth against apartheid for equality. It seems that 22 years after democracy the struggle still continues, young people across the nation find themselves not adequately equipped by the education system which moved from one segregated by race before 1994 to one segregated by wealth. A system where only 34% of students starting school pass matric is indicative that there is a problem with the system. It is not enough for government to offer merely free education but it needs to be quality education relevant to the contemporary issues in South Africa.

On the 31st of May 2018 the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motsekga announced that Life Orientation be taken off school curriculum and replaced with History as a compulsory subject. She says that History will help pupils deal with social issues and identity. She envisions it will contribute to nation building, social cohesion and cultural heritage. Ideally, it would mean a decolonized education system where pupils know more about their history and contribute to having an education system that gives youth tools to function in modern day life .This seems to be a move back to the ideas of Africanism and the Black Consciousness movement which is the spark that set off the uprisings in the 1970s.

Black Consciousness believed it was necessary for intellectual freedom which is derived from pride at being black. It felt it necessary for the feelings of inferiority that has been instilled over hundreds of years of oppression to be countered. These ideas have fed into the debates of students today around the need for decolonisation. There has been a notable push back globally in black pride and awareness around issues of inequality, privilege and institutional racism. While as an institution centered on heritage we see history education as very important this begs the question,  does that mean skills offered in Life Orientation such as life skills and sex education are now not deemed essential for youth to learn? Will the state be able to train enough history teachers to impart this education to students by 2022?

In most of the discussions around education it is a concern that primary education is often not part of the conversation. Early childhood learning and development deserves as much focus, if not more, than other levels of learning. Foundation phase education should have greater importance in the debate. 

The philosophy of Black Consciousness continues to play a significant role in the new South Africa. It inspired the youth of 1976 to protest against the Bantu education. It laid the roots for restoring black pride and confidence along with the push back against the British based South African educational system where coloniality still exists in minds, languages and textbooks.  

To view more posters like the one above click here: The Future is ours: Commemorating youth in struggle