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Johannesburg - A memorial acre, housing the June 16th Memorial and Youth Institute, was officially launched in Soweto on Monday.
Gauteng Premier David Makhura, Infrastructure Development MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza and Culture MEC Molebatsi Bopape launched the R48 million memorial acre on the 38th anniversary of the 1976 Soweto uprisings.
“The institute will become a centre for memory and a resource for young people to contribute to community development through various youth developmental programmes that will be run from the institute,” the Gauteng government said in a statement.
The memorial includes a double-storey building in the shape of an AK-47 assault rifle, a symbol of the struggle against apartheid, and a statue of Tsietsi Mashinini, one of the student leaders of the march.
On June 16, 1976, a group of schoolchildren set off from Morris Isaacson High School in Orlando, Soweto, to protest over Afrikaans being the medium of instruction, among other grievances against the apartheid government.
There was a stand-off with police, who opened fire on the children. The township was sealed off and attacks on government buildings followed; as well as the flight of many youths and political leaders into exile. This day is now commemorated as Youth Day.
Trade unions and political parties also marked Youth Day on Monday.
The National Education Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) wished young people well on Youth Day, spokesman Sizwe Pamla said in a statement on Monday.
“The high rate of unemployment and the super-exploitation of young people in the different sectors of our economy, are some of the biggest challenges facing today's young people.
“The battle for fair wages and better working conditions needs unity and mobilisation by all workers, especially young ones, who are the custodians of the future.”
Nehawu remained committed to supporting young workers.
The union appealed to the youth to confront the problems facing their generation, including substance abuse and HIV.
“The HIV and Aids pandemic still poses the most serious challenge for young people in South Africa because they are the most vulnerable from the disease,” Pamla said.
Mpumalanga chairman of the Democratic Alliance Youth Muso Kubheka said in a statement that more needed to be done about youth unemployment.
“Young people are at risk of being left behind by a lack of education, study funding and poor work prospects...”
The government needed to make sure there were further education opportunities for matriculants and that every school delivered quality education.
The DA was circulating a petition in Mpumalanga calling on the government to increase the National Student Financial Aid Scheme to R16 billion and increase internship opportunities in co-operation with the private sector.
“At the end of Youth Month, all signed petitions from across Mpumalanga and South Africa will be sent to our national head office, and presented to the relevant national government ministers,” Kubheka said.
The ANC Youth League said the youth should never forget the sacrifices of those who stood up for their beliefs against the apartheid regime in 1976.
“As this generation of young people, we commit ourselves to take South Africa forward to economic freedom under the leadership, care and guidance of the ANC,” spokesman Bandile Masuku said in a statement.
The ruling party's election manifesto set out a progressive plan to make South Africa's economy prosperous and stable, with particular emphasis on industrialisation and job creation, he said.
“We challenge all young people to be the watchdog of government programme implementation,” Masuku said.
Western Cape Economic Opportunities MEC Alan Winde's office said in statement that the provincial government would invest R330 million over the next three years in skills development programmes targeting the youth.
“Young people are our future and we need to give them the support they need to create a better future for themselves and make a valuable contribution to our society and economy,” Winde said in Cape Town.
“We want to encourage youth to take every opportunity presented to them to increase their skills profile.”
Deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa spoke at the national youth day celebrations in Kimberley on Monday, while DA Parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane spoke at a youth day rally in Pretoria. - Sapa