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A GROUP of high school pupils were taken back to 1976, when schoolchildren in Soweto protested against a decree that Afrikaans be used as the language of instruction in schools.The 80 pupils from various schools were spellbound, clinging to their seats at the Johannesburg City Library on 15 June when Zweli Sizane, who took part in the ill-fated march and witnessed the shooting of Hector Pieterson, recounted the events of the day.

Sizane, is the chairperson of June 16 Foundation. At the time he was a senior member of the South African Students Movement, and was one of the organisers of the march. He described events leading up to the protests, as well as the shootings.

The soft spoken Sizane painted a clear picture of the day, describing the events detail by detail. He said it was his job to make sure that everyone was disciplined. He spoke about the support the students received from neighbouring countries, as well as events that were not reported in the media. He shocked his listeners when he revealed that Pieterson was shot by a black police officer even before they were ordered to shoot.

He spoke of what he witnessed on the day, saying that history books were influenced by media reports that he claimed were not completely accurate. “The youth have a lot to do. They have a role to play. The country can only be known if they stand up and excel in whatever they do.”

The event was an activity of Youth Celebrating Diversity at the Johannesburg City Library. It was also addressed by Hlanga Mqushulu from the National Youth Development Agency, who spoke about the opportunities available to the youth.

Sizane keeps learners spellbound with his naratio of June 16Zweli Sizane keeps learners spellbound with his naration of June 16 events in SowetoIt was an interesting presentation as many of the schoolchildren did not know what the agency did. They were encouraged to visit its offices for career guidance. “We spend huge amounts of money dedicated to ensuring that high school learners make sound decisions of what they want to do at tertiary,” she said.

There was also an opportunity to tour the library and view the exhibition on the 1976 uprising. It comprised books and newspaper clippings. They were also able to view books on careers and democracy.

Among the learners were 18-year-old Mxolisi Mhlongo his friend Rodrick Musariri, who is a year older. Mhlongo said he learned a valuable lesson of standing up for himself as a young person, like the youth of 1976.

Musariri, who aims to be a journalist, said that knowing where the country came from would help them know where they were heading. He spoke of what the youth had gained from the uprising, in which some of them lost their lives.

“Through their fights we are enjoying equal rights,” he said, adding that the youth of today needed to fight for economic independence and make South Africa a better place to live.

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