Looking back to go forward: Reflecting on Youth Day 2017

Just as the students of the 1976 Uprising did, the youth have shown that when supported by the people around them they find both the courage and inspiration needed to overcome challenges in their lives and can shape the future of a nation.

In the week leading up to Friday, June 16, TEACH visited schools in Soweto and Thembisa where ambassadors have been placed to ask students about their thoughts on Youth Day and their inspirations for the future. Grade 10 learner Mahlatse Baloyi from Letsibogo Secondary shared how the celebration of June 16 was about “embracing the freedom that was fought for, being determined to express ourselves and show our talents”. Her sentiments were echoed by a fellow learner Reabetswe Modikwe who said that “achieving goals was about having dreams but also about working hard for them”. Despite feeling challenged by some subjects both girls agreed that having discipline towards their studies would help them achieve their goals.

When asked about what Youth Day meant to them, learners from Princess High School emphasised the importance of giving back and helping those who have supported them. Grade 10 student and business inspired Sihle Tshabalala reflected on the support he received from the people around him. “Having a proper education and teachers like you [TEACH ambassadors] encourages me to stay focused on my studies for the future”, said Tshabalala. He added that “as young people, we have parents and teachers who give to us so we must also give back to them and the community”. Sihle said that he wanted to celebrate Youth Day by giving clothes to charity and cooking for his parents.

At Kagiso Secondary Grade 10 and 11 learners spoke confidently about their desires for the future and the significance of having support in the form of teachers, parents and siblings. President of the Student Representative Council Kagiso Mahlatane said he wished all students would remember to “respect the guidance of teachers and parents because they want you to succeed”. This statement rings true for ambassadors like Goitseone Phateng from the school who encouraged and supported his learners towards their own achievements in the classroom and beyond.

Much of children’s learning and development will take place outside of the home, most often at school. If the learning environment is positive, the effects on a child’s development will be positive.  Ambassador Vusimuzi Ngcobo from Phomolong Secondary said that “as teachers when we reflect on the impact of education on the youth and celebrate and encourage their development, we must remember that their future success is related to having a supportive environment”. He added that he was “grateful to have such an environment in the school that is encouraged by the principal and staff”. He went on to say that children are more likely to succeed when the structures around them all work together towards the same goals.

Overall, the school visits and conversations with learners, ambassadors and staff centred around a message of collaboration and respect for self and others. Looking back at the courage and impact of the students of June 16, it is encouraging to hear that many still believe that the celebration of Youth Day is not only about the freedoms fought for but is about ensuring the deepening of positive values in society as a whole.

Kagiso Secondary – Soweto

Letsibogo Secondary – Soweto

Princess High School – Soweto

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