Past, Present, Future: Can One Be Without the Other? By Katryna Mattern

It is continuously noted that kids are our future, often times using this to emphasize the importance of offering education opportunities for our children. How, then, can we allow our children to pave our future for us if their education is taken away from them? What are those children to do? What are we to do?    “Soweto came to epitomize the evils of apartheid.” Among its evils apartheid took education from African students. By insisting that lessons be taught in Afrikaans, a barrier was created between the African students and the white students. The frustration of the African students grew. Soon the implementation of Afrikaans in the education drove students to stop attending school in attempts of creating recognition that the use of Afrikaans in the classroom needed to end. 

    Frustrations grew and groups of students decided their voices needed to be heard. They wanted to take their education back. On June 16, 1976 these African students, children and young adults of all ages, became south Africa’s future. With placards in hand and determination in their souls, these students marched from high school to high school gathering more and more students as they marched their way across town to Orlando West High School. Although these students were not fighting or violent, violence broke out between police authorities and students of all ages resulting in the taking of young lives. This was the Soweto Uprising. These brave students, this uprising is known to have been a starting force for the ending of apartheid. 

    We want to put all these pressures and responsibilities on our children to do great things and to be our future, but we take away their opportunities to do so. These students of Soweto didn’t have adequate lessons because they were taught in a foreign language. Today students don’t have textbooks, supplies, or even desks or they’re attending schools lacking hygienic healthy environments. It seems as if there’s this belief that because schools are no longer segregated or that things such as the Soweto Uprising occurred in the past that we are so much further along and problems of inadequate education environments are nonexistent. This belief however is naive of reality. 

    We cannot count on our students to claim their education if we do not provide them with the opportunity to do so. There are those who like to say that children are just lazy or choose not to be active in their schooling, while instead it should be recognized that public schools don’t receive funding, or children are taking up jobs to support their families instead, or going to school isn’t even safe anymore due to hygiene or robbery. Soweto Uprising happened because of oppression of Africans and because students were having their educational and human rights taken right from under their feet. Twelve year olds’ lives shouldn’t have to be taken in order for our kids to be our future. As Hector Pieterson’s sister — individuals who were a part of the uprising — said, “Hector was an ordinary twelve year old. We shouldn’t be celebrating his death.” How we educate our youth and how we provide that education is what we should be worried with not that kids are “lazy” or “deviant,” and we shouldn’t have to celebrate young children’s deaths in order to spark change. Kids are our future, but there can’t be a future without recognizing the past and realizing the truth of the present.