In 1953, the then Apartheid Government in South Africa introduced the Bantu Education Act which was designed to train Africans to be fit only in black community or for certain forms of labour (labourer, worker, and servant only) in the European community. The African was not to receive a training which can enable him to integrate the European community. But the emergence of some organizations such the South Africa Students Organization (SASO) helped to raise the political consciousness of many students.
Hence in 1974, when the language of Afrikaans alongside English was made compulsory as a medium of instruction in schools, black students began to mobilize themselves. On June 16 1976, between 3000 and 10000 students mobilized by the South African Students Movement’s Action Committee marched peacefully to demonstrate against the racist government’s directive in Soweto.
Unfortunately this peaceful protest by unarmed students turned violent when police opened fire and massacred many of them. Anger at the senseless killings inspired retaliatory action on the part of protestors.
The aftermath of the events of June 16 1976 had dire consequences for the Apartheid government. Images of the police firing on peacefully demonstrating students led an international revulsion against South Africa as its brutality was exposed, and gave impetus to the struggle against Apartheid.
In 1982, the 6th congress of the All Africa Students Union (AASU) declared June 16 as “African Student’s Day” to pay tribute to the victims of June 16 1976 barbaric happenings. Since then, AASU has been commemorating the Day as such. And in 1991, the then Organization of African Unity (OAU) now African Union (AU) adopted the Day as “African Child Day” to honor the falling heroes of the Soweto Uprising in 1976 and, also, to raise awareness of the continuing need for improving the education provided to African children.
The commemoration of June 16 should be for Africans, a moment of reflections on their educational systems stemming from colonialism. The time is now for genuine reforms and democratization of education in Africa. An education based on African realities and interests. African leaders have a collective responsibility to redeem the continent from the doldrums of poverty, diseases and general economic hardships through uniting the continent.
Halt to discrimination and racism!
Education for all!
Peter Kwasi KODJIE
All-Africa Students Union (AASU)
www.aasuonline.org/ Email: [email protected]/Mobile: +233(0)242879028
PO BOX M274, Accra- Ghana