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Wed, 06.16.1976

The Soweto Uprising Begins

*On this date in 1976, The Soweto uprising occurred. Also called the Soweto riots were three days of demonstrations and protests led by black youths in South Africa.

Black South African high school students in Soweto protested the Afrikaans Medium Decree of 1974, which forced all black schools to use Afrikaans and English in equal terms as languages of instruction. The association of Afrikaans with Apartheid prompted black South Africans to prefer English. All schools had to provide instruction in both Afrikaans and English as languages, but white South African students learned other subjects in their home language.

The Regional Director of Bantu Education (Northern Transvaal Region) told Circuit Inspectors and Principals of Schools that from January 1, 1975, Afrikaans had to be used for mathematics, arithmetic, and social studies from standard five (7th grade), according to the Afrikaans Medium Decree. English would be the medium of instruction for general science and practical subjects (home crafts, needlework, woodwork, metalwork, art, and agricultural science). Indigenous languages would be used only for religious instruction, music, and physical culture.

The decree was resented deeply by the black population.  Desmond Tutu stated that Afrikaans was "the language of the oppressor." Also, teacher organizations like the African Teachers Association of South Africa objected to the decree. The resentment grew until April 30, 1976, when children at Orlando West Junior School in Soweto went on strike and refused to go to school. Their rebellion then spread to many other schools in Soweto. Black South African students protested because they believed they deserved to be treated and taught like white South Africans. Also, very few people in Soweto spoke Afrikaans.

It is estimated that 20,000 students took part in the protests. They met with fierce police brutality, and many were shot and killed. The number of pupils killed in the uprising was 176, but some sources estimate as many as 700 fatalities. Remembering this episode, June 16 is now a public holiday in South Africa, named Youth Day.

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Ah ha, hush that fuss Everybody move to the back of the bus Do you wanna bump and slump with us We the type of people make the club get crunk Many a... ROSA PARKS by Outkast
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