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Wednesday, June 15, 2005 

Youth Day and the Comrades Marathon

Tomorrow is the 16th of June and in South Africa we will celebrate Youth Day. It is the day in which we commemorate the events of June 16 1976, when Soweto’s youth protested against legislation making Afrikaans the language in which subjects were to be taught. Many would say it was the turning point in the struggle against apartheid. On 16 June 1976 more than 20 000 pupils from Soweto began a protest march. In the wake of clashes with the police, and the violence that ensued during the next few weeks, approximately 700 hundred people, many of them youths, were killed and property destroyed. Youth Day commemorates these events. The Department of Education will on Youth Day, June 16, 2005 host the National Schools Language Festival at the University of Pretoria, Groenkloof Campus. Many similar events will be held at venues around the country. It is also the day on which the annual Comrades Marathon is run, an event that will no doubt receive significantly wider media coverage and publicity than any of the Youth Day celebrations. For most people though, it will be a public holiday… a day away from work, to spend at home in front of the telly, hang out with family and friends and browse around flea markets. 29 years on. The teenagers and scholars of 1976 are now in their mid to late forties. One wonders whether the youth of today fully understand the significance of this day in history and the significant role it played in bringing democracy to South Africa. To the generation of 40-something year olds that protested and took on a government on this day many years ago; Do the Youth Day festivals of today do justice to their sacrifice and effort? I wonder…


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