16 June National Youth Day

Sam Nzima’s iconic photo from 16 June ’76.

16 June is National Youth Day in South Africa and a day of reflection and remembrance. On this day, in 1976, school children went on a peaceful march against the use of the Afrikaans language as the medium of instruction in black schools, but they were met by a police force set on stopping them at any cost. Surprised by the number of school children on the march and the strong sentiments they were expressing, police panicked and started shooting.

About 200 children lost their lives that tragic day and more than 500 people died across the country as the protests spread to other areas. One of the first to die on 16 June was Hector Pieterson.

The Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum opened in Orlando West, Soweto, in 2002, not far from the spot where 12-year-old Hector was shot during the Soweto uprisings that today is a symbol of resistance to the brutality of the apartheid government.

16 June National Youth Day

The Hector Pieterson Memorial, Soweto.

This excellent museum is dedicated to preserving the memory of the 1976 uprisings. It houses an impressive collection of first-hand oral testimonies, pictures, authentic audiovisual displays and historical documents relating to the Soweto uprisings. Together with the memorial, it commemorates those who died in the uprisings and celebrates the students’ role in the struggle for freedom.

It is definitely a must-see for any visitor to Johannesburg and Soweto and a visit is included in most guided tours to Soweto. Why not try our Johannesburg 2-night Start Package which includes a tour or contact us at info@swafrica.co.za to tailor-make your visit!