The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU) today joins the country in commemorating the 47th anniversary of the 16th of June 1976 Uprising which is now called National Youth Day. Thousands of school children took to the streets of Soweto to march against the imposition of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction on this historic day in 1976. Not only were they raising their frustration against Afrikaans but also their contempt at the inferior quality of education they were being fed.

We salute the 1976 youth for facing head-on the heavily armed apartheid police with only their bare hands, sticks and stones. Their brave act of defiance which led to the loss of hundreds of lives and incarceration of young lives, changed the trajectory of the country’s future. No one can deny that South Africa was never the same after that fateful day as protests in defiance of the apartheid regime spread across the country, became the order of the day, and caused the apartheid regime to eventually relent. As we observe this historic day   on the 28th year of South Africa’s constitutional democracy, the country will always be indebted to that Class of 76.

As we enjoy this new political dispensation, it is hard for the youth of today to fully grasp it and the value of the 76 Uprising as many remain unemployed and surrounded by poverty leading to some engaging in crime and other social ills like gender-based violence. We call on them not to lie in despondency but to take a leaf from the youth of ’76 and explore all the avenues that have been brought forth by the new dispensation and make their voices heard.

As a Union in the education sphere SADTU, just like the youth of 76, believes that education has a critical role to play in changing the lives of the youth today for the better. The high unemployment rates among the youth cannot be blamed solely on the education they receive while the country’s shrinking economy is failing to absorb the thousands of unemployed graduates.

SADTU commits to continue to strive for an education system that will not only provide skills to the youth but will develop them holistically to meet not only the economic needs of the country but the social needs as well and bring back the values of ubuntu and build caring and patriotic citizens

We shall continue in our quest to ensure the decolonisation of education. By decolonising education, we mean recreating our values, dignity, cultures, and Indigenous languages for us to access science, innovation and develop critical cognitive levels that are required to have a sustainable and inclusive economy. It is upon us to ensure we take the responsibility in changing our curriculum to be the one that develops our children to be creative and self-standing. We commit to use pedagogy to fight against social ills such as violence in schools and gender-based violence. Achieving greater social justice is dependent on equal access, by all, to quality education.

As we salute the youth of 1976 for fighting against the apartheid regime, we also recognise that at the same time, they fought against imperialism – a system of oppression which occurs in brutal and most inhumane forms.

The world and our country are once more subjected to the most heinous extortion and bullying, the same as what we were exposed to in 1976. We urge the youth of today to take time to study, understand and engage with this system that allows a handful of men on earth to rule all of humanity.

To quote the words of world stateman, Tata Nelson Mandela, “The power of education extends beyond the development of skills we need for economic success. It can contribute to nation-building and reconciliation.”

We join many others to wish the African Mission led by President Cyril Ramaphosa all the success as they make the noblest of points that say guns are destructive and will not solve anything except for proper engagements based on respect in the Russia/Ukraine war.

In conclusion, we call on all South Africans to rally behind the Union’s “I am A School” campaign which is aimed at ensuring that our schools are safe. Schools are no longer safe places to learn due to among others, crime and gangsterism. Schools are increasingly being held to ransom by communities who chose to use them as a bargaining chip during service delivery protests.

ISSUED BY: SADTU Secretariat

CONTACT: General Secretary, Mugwena Maluleke: 082 783 2968

                   Deputy General Secretary, Nkosana Dolopi: 082 709 5651

                   Secretariat Officer, Xolani Fakude: 071 355 1566

                   Media Officer, Nomusa Cembi: 082 719 5157