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Day of the African Child

Friday, June 16, 2017 9:57 AM | James Morgan

In 1974, the Afrikaans Medium Decree was signed into place by the South African Minister of Bantu Education and Development, MC Botha.[1] This decree mandated that the Afrikaans language be used alongside English as the primary language of instruction in black schools from the last year of primary school until the end of high school. Although it faced resistance from the African Teachers Association, the law still passed.

This assault on the native languages of many South African students did not sit well with very many people. Although the government's reasoning included an increase in efficiency, it did not take into account the values held by its citizens. During this time apartheid was still 17 years away from ending, and the legal segregation of black and white students was very much still a problem in South Africa. Seen as an attack on their culture, language, and race,  between 10,000 and 20,000 students formed together to protest these changes during what would later be named the Soweto Uprising. Students from multiple high schools across Soweto joined together in protest, walking among the streets voicing their anger with chants and songs. After a clash between a police dog and the protesters, officers opened fire into the crowd, escalating not only the violence but the protest itself, ultimately leading to 23 deaths that first day. Not wanting the protests to continue any longer, 1,500 heavily armed police officers were deployed in armored vehicles to patrol the streets and forcibly end what had now turned into a riot against the brutality. Although no official death toll was given, estimates range from 176 to 700.[2] The protests in total lasted approximately two weeks.

Every year since June 16th, 1991, the International Day of the African Child works to bring awareness to the students desire for equality and education. Created by the Organization of African Unity, the day honors those who took a stand against an oppressive government. Even though the past is worth remembering, the day does not stop there. It also raises awareness for the continued need for improvement for African students. Governments and organizations across the globe use this day to take part in discussions related to this goal, with a different theme every year. This year, the theme is “The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for Children in Africa: Accelerating protection, empowerment and equal opportunity.” Events around the world aimed to discuss ways in which to promote this goal, leading to funding being given and plans being implemented helping to meet this goal. Every year, roughly 100 events in over 40 countries participate, showing that people across the world are dedicated to creating change. Some recent examples have been campaigns to end child marriage across Africa and freeing young children from armed groups in the Central African Republic. To put it simply, this event works to bring harmony to all Africans, not just children.


[1] Https://

[2] Harrison, David (1987). The White Tribe of Africa

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