Students to learn about Youth Day

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Johannesburg - This year, the June 16, 1976 Foundation is expanding its activities to last the month, with a special focus on the learners of today.

A group of learners from Soweto high schools, who have participated in an essay-writing competition run by Mandela House, will spend the day touring the township's heritage sites.

The remaining days in June will comprise workshops, seminars and other youth events, reports Joburg.org.

The June 16, 1976 Foundation has drawn up a programme for the month, in consultation with stakeholders such as the government, the Youth Commission, churches and other foundations.

Seth Mazibuko, the foundation's chief executive, said the programme's central theme is the organisation's motto: "The values, virtues and victories of 1976 revitalised."

He said it will be used to mobilise youth and students to become more active in social responsibility issues, and economic and social development.

It will include workshops and seminars on youth in business; youth in agriculture; youth citizenship; youth in sports, arts and culture; youth in leadership; and youth in service.

The foundation will honour the Congress of South African Students, which has been around for 30 years, and will engage in conversation with the Representative Council of Learners.

In addition, it will celebrate youth and leaders who have demonstrated good leadership in fields such as sports and business.

Those students who lost their lives in the 1976 protests will be commemorated. Mr Mazibuko emphasizes that the celebrations will take place with respect and dignity.

"We strive to create an atmosphere of enthusiasm and excitement while we as South Africa celebrate Youth Month and the Confederations Cup with the rest of the world," he said.

Mandela House will be participating in the month's activities, in partnership with Soweto Life Tourism Services.

It invited schools in the area to take part in an essay-writing competition. Learners who participated, and submitted proper essays, have been invited to tour Soweto's heritage sites on Youth Day.

They will be travelling in two buses to accommodate 140 students, said Ishmael Mbhokodo, the site manager at Mandela House.

On the itinerary are the Hector Pieterson Museum, Regina Mundi Church, Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication, Kliptown Museum, Apartheid Museum and Museum Africa.

Winners of the competition will be given books courtesy of the Hector Pieterson Museum, said Mr Mbhokodo.

The sites chosen for the tour are important in commemorating 16 June. It includes the Hector Pieterson Museum in Orlando West, which was opened on 16 June 2002. It lies two blocks from where 12-year-old Hector was shot and killed by apartheid security forces on 16 June 1976.
One of the first casualties of the day, he became the internationally recognised image of the uprising.

Protesting students fled to Regina Mundi Church, hoping for shelter and safety, but police stormed into the church shooting at them. The church, which bears the scars of the uprising, has played a significant role in Soweto's history and in the struggle against apartheid.

From there, the tour moves to the Soweto suburb of Kliptown. It is here that the historic Congress of the People was held in 1955 that resulted in the drawing up of the Freedom Charter.

The site is today the Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication. In the monument at its centre there is a fire that never goes out, symbolising the eternal light of freedom.

Engraved inside the monument are the 10 clauses of the Freedom Charter, on which today's Constitution is based.

The Apartheid Museum in Ormonde, on the edge of Soweto, is the next stop. It is the first museum of its kind, illustrating as it does the rise and fall of apartheid.

A team of curators, filmmakers and historians has arranged the exhibits, which include film footage, photographs, text panels, and artefacts telling the stories of apartheid.

Finally, the tour winds up at Museum Africa, in Newtown. The African continent is featured at this museum, which also explores South African history with exhibits such as paintings and photographs collected since 1935.

The cultural history of South Africa, Bushman rock paintings, life in Soweto, and a display of the 1956 Treason Trial are among the displays.

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