Commemorating June 16th, 1976:

The vivid images of a dying Hector Pieterson, carried by Mbuyisa Makhubo, accompanied by his sister Antoinette Sitole, are forever etched in our memory.

The trauma they suffered seems like just yesterday and though it happened on this day in 1976, it feels as if it is still happening today.

We have had and continue to have leaders that care very little about the future leaders of our country, the youth.

We continue to have the same Apartheid systems in place for youths in the townships and the lack of opportunities that prompted youth from 1976 to lay down their lives because the situation in our education and townships for them was simply not worth living for.

It was a matter of fight for change or die.

That was then and this is now but nothing much has changed. Our youth in townships are largely poverty-stricken (and no, white people you do not get a pass on this one because Apartheid placed them there).

The schools are still overcrowded with very little if any resources to give them the much-needed start in life.

In a world that is largely technology-driven, very few youths in our townships have access to computers or affordable internet rates.

Assignments will therefore always be mediocre at best especially if there is no money to do projects which account for a substantial percentage of their overall pass.

Food is scarce and for growing bodies, its vitally important that they receive nutritious meals to sustain their brains not only while they are at school but when they are home doing their school assignments too.

The gangsterism that plagues our communities remains a very real temptation for those youth that is tired of being hungry, tired of being laughed at when they have learning difficulties, no after school activities that could occupy their minds and loads have to deal with with the challenges of being child-headed households. To say nothing of abuse that often occurs within their homes.

We see a few black children going on to university and colleges and suddenly we think all is well but the truth is that those ones who do manage to graduate are so few and then comes the challenge of having to find work. Work that will help them earn enough to pull themselves out of the shocking conditions they live in. We then have to contend with intelligent young people who simply can’t find work because there isn’t any and nothing is being done to create employment opportunities or to steer these children into entrepreneurship.

Then the reality of home life will lead some astray and they will seek comfort in substance abuse. Not because they’re naughty or weak but because often there’s just nothing for energetic, healthy youth to do except succumb to their environment.

Of course, this gives racists a perfect opportunity to vilify these children, their parents, and or the Government whilst absolving themselves from the reason they were there at the onset.

If there was redress, equality, and equity in our country as we were promised at the dawn of our democracy, maybe just maybe these children and their families might have had a fighting chance of improving their lives.

I don’t want to “celebrate” youth day because for the majority of our youth their remains very little to celebrate. Instead, I want to reflect and figure out how we hold the powers that be responsible for changing things and for giving a damn but sadly with the as yet NO improvement on gender-based violence, I hold out very little hope that it will change from above.

Maybe it’s time we all took to the streets again together with our youth and continue protesting until real change happens both with gender-based violence and the lack of everything our youth need to become productive citizens.

No matter what mathematical equation you apply to this situation, no bootstraps that they are meant to “pull themselves out of poverty” with, contain diamonds they can use to make it in life.