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South Africa Adventure

The Soweto Uprising

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

On June 16, 1976, hundreds of schoolchildren in Soweto marched to protest the use of Afrikaans as the primary language of education in the overcrowded, much neglected Bantu schools in the townships. This was a highly charged political issue. Not only was Dutch-based Afrikaans considered the "language of the oppressor" by blacks, but it also made it more difficult for students to learn, as most spoke an African language and, as a second language, English.

The march turned nasty quickly. The protestors, mostly young students, became overexuberant, and so, to, did the police. The police started firing into the youthful crowd. One of the first people of more then 500 to die, in what was the beginning of a long and protracted struggle, was 12-year-old Hector Peterson. A picture of the dying Peterson in the arms of a crying friend, taken by photographer Sam Nzima, put a face on apartheid and sent it around the world.

Peterson was just a schoolboy trying to ensure a better life for himself and his friends, family and community, but but his name lives on. He and the many students who joined the liberation movement strengthened the fight against apartheid. Eventually Afrikaans was dropped as the language of instruction, and more schools and a teaching college were built in Soweto. Today Hector Peterson's name graces a simple memorial and museum about the conflict, and June 16th is Youth Day, a national holiday.

Essential Programs Details

Duration 12 days
When June 2nd - 13th, 2009
Focus Wildlife Research/Conservation
Political History