“It was cold and overcast as pupils gathered at schools across Soweto on 16 June. At an agreed time, they set off for Orlando West Secondary School in Vilakazi Street, with thousands streaming in from all directions. The planned to march from the school to the Orlando Stadium.
“By 10.30am, over 5 000 students had gathered on Vilakazi Street and more were arriving every minute,” say Bonner and Segal. In total, “over 15 000 uniformed students between the ages of 10 and 20 [were] marching that day”.”
Tomorrow marks the 1976 Soweto uprising by students and scholars. The image above has as much relevance today as it did in the week before I was born. The youth today is more empowered in some ways and less in others. Our education standards instead of being raised have been dropped. These days every child in a government school gets Bantu Education. We’ve educated to the lowest common denominator and then the ANCYL complains that the elite of private schools get all the jobs. It shouldn’t be surprising.
The youth still bear the brunt of violence and disempowerment. They lack textbooks, teachers, classrooms and shoes. Yet we still build stadiums. Stadiums which a year later stand empty and falling into disrepair. Many of our scholars aren’t just kids, they head up households, where they care for younger siblings trying to go to school and bring in enough money to feed and clothe others. This is the legacy of HIV/AIDS. This is what threatens our youth today. Yet we still avoid it, duck our heads and make like an ostrich.
If every public sector employee and every government minister had to send their children to a public school and use public clinics and healthcare, how quickly do you think things would change? The fact is the elite now may be black, but they stand as far away from the common man as their white predecessors, behind their suburban 6 foot walls and their Discovery medical aids and their private schools. Really, just proof that under the skin, men are all the same.
The Apartheid government recognised that by keeping the populace uneducated, they could hold on to power. When you’re fighting for your next meal, you really don’t care about macro-economic policy. So what’s different now? Really. Nothing. Educated people ask questions. They demand answers. They force change. They have power and recourse that the poor may have in word, but not in reality. How can a poor man challenge something in the Constitutional Court? He can’t. Only the rich can. So is it a Court of the people?
My husband, a one time law student, used to point out to me that the law, right and wrong, truth and justice are mutually exclusive. An ordinary man has no rights. You only have rights when they are called into question. This is why a criminal has more rights that their victim.
We like to think things have changed. That organisations like the ANC Youth League look after the interests of the youth. They don’t. They look after their own interests and their friends and you can’t blame them for it. Youth to them seems very flexible. I don’t think a 30 year old can be regarded as a youth anymore. By 30 I think you should have grown up into a man. Unless we are talking about mental age instead, in which case they are spot on with Mr Malema.