Jacob Zuma: No schools were burnt in 1976

Jacob Zuma: No schools were burnt in 1976

President Jacob Zuma urged youngsters and communities to take a leaf from the students who took part in the protests of June 16 in 1976 and refrain from damaging property. 

Zuma Youth Day
Samkele Maseko

”Not a single school was burnt during 1976. The conduct we see today is unacceptable. Why destroy schools? Where are children supposed to go after that? There is something wrong with us. We cannot say there’s something sober about such actions,” said Zuma.

He said destroying clinics, trains and factories during protests for service delivery was not helpful.

”We need to discuss this as a country, sit down, talk about this and discourage it. Resources that are meant to bring development are diverted to rebuild all that has been destroyed. These acts indicate that we are going astray,” he said.

He said, however, that the struggle for opportunities and better lives for all continued, and that the sacrifices of the class of 1976 were not in vain because the apartheid regime was defeated.

”Race no longer determines where one lives or where one goes to school or church, or what work one can do. Black people no longer have to carry passes or seek permits to live and work in urban areas.”

Turning to student funding, Zuma urged the National student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) beneficiaries to pay back monies owed to the scheme, to enable those who need funding to study. A commission has been appointed to look into free higher education, he said.

”We know that many more students are still struggling to afford tertiary education because they come from poor families. We appointed a judicial commission to look into the feasibility of free higher education for the country. I look forward to receiving the commission’s report and recommendations.”

Thursday marked 40 years after the June 16 uprising by students against Afrikaans as a medium of instructions at black schools.

The uprising began in Soweto and then spread countrywide in 1976. Students in Soweto had planned to meet at Orlando Stadium on the day and embark on a peaceful march to education authorities, when they were confronted by police who ordered them to disperse.

They refused to disperse and threw stones at the police who then opened fire, killing and injuring some of the youngsters.

Many young activists were forced into exile to escape the wrath of the then apartheid government. Pieterson, after whom the Soweto memorial was named, was the youngest victim killed during the uprising. The iconic photograph of the 12-year-old Pieterson, carried by Makhubo with Pieterson’s sister running alongside him, became a worldwide symbol of the students uprising and their struggle against the apartheid regime and education system.

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