June 16, 2008 – There is a stone outside the Hector Pieterson Museum in Orlando West, Soweto.
On it is a plaque. It reads:
“This precinct [is] ... a place of national significance ... [and] commemorates the student uprising against Bantu Education on 16 June 1976.
“On that day, in this vicinity, about 15 000 school children gathered to protest against the introduction of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction. As the students marched peacefully to present a memorandum at the Orlando Police Station, armed police confronted them with gunfire ...
“At least 600 students died and thousands were wounded. Thousands more were detained, tortured, charged and imprisoned. Up to 12 000 fled the country ...”
A post on the South African Government Information website puts the number of protesters on that day at over 20 000, with the number of fatalities at around 700.
The plaque continues:
“At this site of national significance, the nation pays homage to the students of 1976, who sacrificed their lives so that the doors of learning and culture would be opened, and South Africa could be free. Today, their vision is enshrined in our constitution ...”
Youth Day commemorates the people who laid down their lives in the struggle for democracy, and this is what the people of Kliptown had to say about it: