Youth day and you

Youth day and you


What we can learn about changing for the better

Most of us are to some degree resistant to change.

Think of how irritated you are when a new traffic light is erected in town. Remember your frustration when the new RICA and FICA laws were passed for your phone and bank account? Changes – even small ones – require us to adapt. It requires us to disrupt our lives, and most adults don’t like it.

That is why we need the youth.

Whereas most of us are resistant to change (partly to protect our financial security and family lives), the youth wants to see the world changed for the better. Their spirit and passion is often what is needed to change the wrongs in our society.


Youth uprisings in history and today

It is not only in South Africa that youth and student protests has brought about huge social changes. The USA, France, Ireland and the middle East all have stories to tell.

In the 1960 and 70s, the American youth was instrumental in resisting the War in Vietnam, as well as furthering the civil rights movement.

Four students were killed at Kent State University and nine were injured when the National Guard opened fire on a crowd gathered to protest the Vietnam War.


The Ohio National Guard fires tear gas to disperse the crowd of students gathered on the commons at Kent State University, in Kent, Ohio, May 4, 1970. May 4 Collection/Kent State University Libraries/Special Collections and Archives/Handout via REUTERS


This Pulitzer Prize winning photo by John Filo shows Mary Ann Vecchio, 14, screaming as she kneels over the body of student Jeffrey Miller at Kent State University on May 4, 1970.



Today young people from the USA are protesting for stricter gun control laws, saying they “refuse to accept gun violence as an unsolvable issue.”


The “Road to Change”, a protest action travelling all across America, kicks off on Friday, June 15 in Chicago. Photo:


South Africa’s youth uprisings 1976

On 16 June we celebrate youth day in South Africa.

In 1976, after years of unreasonable policies concerning their education, young people decided to stand up for themselves. Their education system was in tatters. In 1961 only 10 per cent of their teachers held a matriculation certificate. And whereas the government spent R644 annually for each white child, only R42 was budgeted for children of other ethnicities.

On 16 June 1976 many young people were killed unnecessarily. If you are interested in this history, read an account of the Youth Day uprising here or listen to a talk by this Unisa lecturer.

SOWETO – SOUTH AFRICA, On 16 June 1976 high-school students in Soweto, South Africa, protested for better education. Police fired teargas and live bullets into the marching crowd killing innocent people. This ignited what is known as “The Soweto Uprising”, the bloodiest episode of riots between police and protesters since the 1960’s. (Photo by Bongani Mnguni/City Press/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

So next time someone mutters something negative about ‘ the youth of today’, remember that it’s the youth who risks everything to change the world for the better.

“Youth can not know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young.”
— J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter, #5))

Let us be thankful for the progress we’ve made in restoring SA broken past. And let us not resist the changes we still need.



For the list of names of the young people who died during the June uprisings, click here.



Article Y Coetsee 2018

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