The poet places himself in the shoes of one of the teenagers who participated in the Soweto
uprising of June 16, 1976. He sees himself the day before the event, foreseeing the tragedy
that is due to erupt.
Notice how the poet portrays a hum-drum, happy-go-lucky life of the innocent victims of the
brutality that was about to happen.
THE SOWETO UPRISING
After taking power in South Africa in 1948, the National Party systematically worked on its plan
of social engineering which it called Apartheid. The goal was to divide every aspect of the
country along racial lines, and create homelands for the Black population.
In 1953 the Bantu Education Act introduced this plan into the schools. The aim was to educate
the Black youth into becoming permanent servants.
"There is no place for the African in the European community above the level of certain
forms of labour," stated Dr H.F. Verwoerd, the architect of Bantu Education. "It is of no
avail for him to receive a training which has as its aim, absorption in the European
Initial protest against Bantu Education was minimal, with only the Catholic Church mounting
By the 1970s, however, the Apartheid system itself was beginning to show cracks.
Furthermore, the rapidly developing industrial state needed educated youth. The schools that
were created in Soweto to meet this demand, however, became the melting pot for opposition
to Bantu Education.
On 16 June 1976, high school children from Soweto began a protest march for a better
education system. Their banners centred on their hatred at being forced to undertake 50% of
their schooling through the medium of Afrikaans which they regarded as the language of
The police intervened, attempting to disperse the youth by means of teargas and live bullets.
The resultant massacre of the youth became the rallying point for rolling mass-action that would
eventually see the end of the hated Apartheid system.
June 16 (Soweto Day) is now a public holiday in South Africa, under the title of Youth
Unfortunately, we have absolutely no information about the poet -- or even a photograph of
him. If anyone could help us, we would be extremely grateful.
Have you looked at the questions
in the right column?