An open letter to the Class of 1976: You have inspired us
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Dear Class of 1976
It has been 44 years since that historic day when you took to the streets to demand an end to the unjust and inferior Bantu education system.
Dressed in school uniform, you left your homes to march peacefully in song alongside your classmates, friends, and comrades. Along the way you were intercepted by armed policemen with their vicious dogs and tear gas canons. As a result, many precious young lives were lost that day.
At first, it was intriguing to read about how you rose above your fears and courageously attempted to defend yourselves by throwing stones despite the volley of bullets, the violent beatings, and the barking of bloodthirsty dogs at your heels.
But now we understand that the firebrand determination burning in your hearts was your strongest weapon. You refused to accept a system that would stagnate the development of a black child and subject him to a life of subservience. You charged forward with minds full of brilliant ideas that would shape the South Africa we live in today and for this we thank you.
We have been labelled as the Born-free generation because you took it upon yourselves to break the chains aimed at robbing the black child of their rightful opportunities.
It is because of your bravery that today, South Africa’s higher educational institutions comprise an estimated 72% of African students. There are no words to describe the level of gratitude we have towards you for refusing to be silenced and thinking of us before we were even born.
Let us assure you that we remember your sacrifices and recognise the immeasurable contribution you have made in taking this nation forward. The fight is not yet over and we are not ignorant nor are we oblivious to the modern-day struggles that many of our peers continue to face in a post-democratic South Africa.
It is unfortunate, that many children in townships and rural areas still lack access to proper educational resources and continue to learn under deplorable conditions while statistics tell us that more than 51% of youth between the ages of 18-24 cannot afford higher education.
Taking our lead from your spirit of courage and determination, in 2016 the youth of today, like yourselves, flooded the streets and marched for the government to hear our calls for a more affordable higher education for all. Much like the 1976 riots, the #Feesmustfall demonstrations were characterised by the similar opposing force, violent scenes and clashes between students and armed police.
We are not entitled. We are inspired. You have passed the baton on to us, igniting a fire within us to stand up and create a world where future generations have equitable access to opportunities.
It is for this reason that we, at Foonda, are devising innovative ways to fight the war against poverty and inequality by bringing higher education closer to the African child. We are innovating new technologies to empower our peers by helping them gain access to quality education. This means more to us than just hashtags and social media posts, this is means freedom for our next generations.
We are using smartphones and devices as the metaphorical stones in our battle against inferior education. Our hope is that we will begin to break down barriers and unlock the doors of opportunity to millions of young people in this country and the entire African continent. This is our way of picking up from where you left off and uplifting your legacy. On this, we know we are not alone!
We salute you for paving a way for us to become the greatness you envisioned for the African child when you marched 44 years ago.
* Vuyo Pakade is a Tech-entrepreneur and the founder of the Foonda digital educational platform.