Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The United Nations has named this "The Day of the African Child".On this day in 1976 children from all over the South African township of Soweto, South West of Johannesburg, streamed out of their schools to join a peaceful protest against the use of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in black schools throughout the country. This was a protest organized by children in their teens, ninth and tenth graders with the support of younger children. They had kept their plans secret from their parents and teachers. By the thousands they left their classrooms and took to the streets armed with cardboard posters that declared their frustration with the inferior Bantu Education system and with instruction in the oppressor's language. As word of the protest spread the South African police and army came to meet them with tear gas, whips, dogs, and live ammunition. By the end of the day 12 year old Hector Pieterson and uncounted numbers of other children were dead, or wounded. News photographer Sam Nzima took the iconic photograph of the dying Hector in the arms of eighteen year old Mbuyisa Makhubu. The girl running beside them was Hector's seventeen year old sister Antoinette. Today we pray with thanksgiving for those people young and old who have given their lives for freedom.

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