16 June in South Africa is Youth Day. It is the day on which the Soweto youth uprising of 16 June 1976 are commemorated.
Protests in African schools (non-white schools) already started in 1974. It started after Afrikaans and English were announced to be the compulsory languages of instruction. Think about that. Today, there are Afrikaans organisations that can’t handle it when schools and universities choose English as primary mediums for instruction. In the 1970’s, children whose mother languages where Tswana, Zulu, Xhosa, and so forth, where basically forced to be instructed in Afrikaans and English.
On 16 June 1976, between 3000 and 10000 scholars marched peacefully to demonstrate and protest against the government’s language policy. The march was meant to culminate at a rally at Orlando Stadium. On the way their, they were met by heavily armed police, who fired teargas and later live ammunition on the demonstrating scholars. 176 scholars were believed to have been killed, with some estimating up to 700 killed. About 4000 were injured.
This is why we keep Youth Day.
The uprising began in Soweto, but spread throughout the country fast, and it lasted until the next year. The aftermath of the events had rather big consequences on the Apartheid government. Images of police firing on peacefully protesting scholars let to an international revulsion against South Africa, as its brutality was exposed.