Forty-one years after the June 16 Soweto Youth Uprising, young people have their own struggles.

The Soweto Uprising was a series of protests led by schoolchildren in the township in defiance of using Afrikaans as a medium of instruction.

A number of them were killed, injured or imprisoned in the process. The day is commemorated as Youth Day.

We interviewed three young people – Swankie Mafoko, Obakeng Mulaudzi and Patrick Buckland – all from different backgrounds, to discuss their struggles and whether the 1976 Uprising was important to them:

Mafoko, 23, an actress on SABC2’s Keeping Score said for her, the word “struggle” was the inability to be who she was and wanted to be.

“It’s encountering obstacles that hinder me to be who I am meant to be.”

Financial freedom posed another challenged.

“My personal struggle is financial freedom.

“I have these qualifications. I have an education. I am an ‘intellectual’ but I have no financial freedom. I am in either in debt because of the NSFAS (National Student Financial Aid Scheme) or because of black tax (a financial responsibility towards family).

As the youth, we struggle with access to free quality education.”

Mafoko said another struggle being ignored was that about black history.

“We don’t understand ourselves through history. There are a lot of gaps.”

She said she would be working tomorrow.

Obakeng Mulaudzi, 23, is a student and Wits Student Representative Council projects and campaigns officer.

For him, the word “struggle” meant the financial and political difficulties he was facing. On the lighter side, there was his struggle to sleep.

Being a black, homosexual man brought up its own issues.

“Not only am I judged for not being straight, but I am suffering for being black. People call me names, telling me how weak I am or that I am not man enough. It’s a constant struggle to teach people that even though I’m not what society believes a man to be, I am still a man.

“Society puts us in a box. We are faced with the struggle of trying to change the norm of what society believes.”

Mulaudzi didn’t believe in celebrating Youth Day because “the youth aren’t taken seriously”.

“The youth of 1976 did a great job and they fought a great fight but we, as the youth today, are still faced with some of the same things they fought for. “

Patrick Buckland, 27, is a school teacher and soccer coach.

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He said youth were struggling to have an influence on society, find a purpose or contribute. “Being young, we are almost undermined and we are not valued. Our voices aren’t heard.”

Buckland found the youth struggled to express themselves as freely as they would like.

“We have a sensitive past and have to be careful and conservative in what we say and do.”

Many of his varsity friends didn’t grow up with the privileges he had and that was another reason he felt a need to watch what he said. “They will judge me based on the fact that they consider me to have privilege. It sometimes holds me back.”

Buckland believed Youth Day provides a platform for young people to voice their opinions and prove they, too, could serve a purpose.

Buckland is due to spent the day with his soccer club which is hosting a Youth Day soccer tournament.

– The Star

Categories: Education