Looking back on the event, what comes to mind is how brave the students were to stand up against a powerful government and risk their lives for what they believed in.
In comparison to today, I have mixed feelings because the state of our education system doesn’t reflect what the youth of 1976 fought for.
The positive thing is that we still have talented, ambitious and driven youth who are willing to go the extra mile, even when the system doesn’t favour them. For instance, pupils in rural areas who still share textbooks and other learning materials make sure they achieve better marks to progress academically.
On the negative side are youths falling into the traps of crime, drugs and laziness. We are not yet uhuru. We may have attained freedom to be taught in our language of choice, but the education system is still skewed.
Furthermore, today in our country as young people, we are faced with lots of challenges such as the high rate of unemployment. Young men are killing their partners and raping our sisters.
I strongly believe we need the unity of spirit of the 1976 youth to fight the demon that is circulating among us. We need to stand together as one and show we care about our young sisters and will protect them.
I believe in a better South Africa. I believe we can fight for our own cause. I would like to see our young men and women stand up and take charge of their lives, be aware of their surroundings, work hard to be educated so they can take up any challenge with an open mind.
Yes, people study for years and end up not getting jobs or do work that does not even need qualifications for survival. However, I believe we can emulate the youth of 1976 that pushed hard to be recognised, the same youth that understood what they fought for. We need youth who will make their lives better and empower others to be successful.
As a mentor of the Young Men Movement (YMM), I would like to see our youth moving out of the impoverished places of their birth but not forget where they come from.
I know I cannot change the world at once, but I know that if I start with my community one boy at the time, the world will be transformed and I encourage people to start doing the same in their communities.
We have tarnished the memories of those who fought against Afrikaans as medium of instruction, because we made this day about getting drunk and having meaningless gatherings. We do nothing constructive. One would think we live in a perfect world, which would be a lie because our challenges as a young democracy are far from over.
I would like us to change that. Let the memory of June 16 be in our daily activities, not just on the day we commemorate it. We need to sit and think of what we would like to achieve, where we want to see ourselves and our brothers and sisters in the next five, 10 or 20 years. Let us work harder to understand our position in our country and the world.
The world at large, the lads from YMM who attend meetings regularly are growing to understand that life is what we make it, that it is important to work hard and never expect people to feel sorry for you or get handouts from them. Our past and present should always inspire us.
Steve Biko was right, we must be the change we want to see, and that change is needed now!
Happy Youth Day.
* Karabo Rasebopye is a senior mentor at the Young Men Movement. He is from Pankop, Dr JS Moroka Municipality, in Mpumalanga.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.