Monday, June 21, 2010

06 16 76

6 year-old Monsura
It was on this day in 1976 that a crowd of 3,000 to 10,000 young students and teachers set out on what was supposed to be a peaceful march along the streets of Soweto, South Africa. They were headed towards Orlando stadium to protest against making Afrikaans the language of instruction in all schools across the entire country. It was regarded as the ‘language of the oppressor’.  They sang and held up placards that read, ‘Down with Afrikaans…If we must do Afrikaans, Vorster must do Zulu.’ Vorster, the then Prime Minister of South Africa and Zulu, their home language. All they wanted was to break free from strongholds and preserve what is theirs. The right to choose.
Soweto Protest
However, what engraved this day on many hearts was the killing of 12 year-old, Hector Pieterson.
Hector Pieterson1
17-year old Antoinette Sithole, Hector's sister and Mbuyisa Makhubo, schoolboy.
He wasn’t the only person to be shot at that day. But he was the first pronounced dead.
The  students marched with pride across town. They were happy to be standing up for something. But they were met with a fate they hadn’t bargained for.

 “There were younger children there, who shouldn’t have been there…”, says Antoinette Sithole, Hector’s sister. “I was hiding when I saw Hector in the crowd…I called him to me, wondering what he was doing out there. Soon after, we heard a gunshot, I ran back into hiding…I looked behind me and Hector was not behind me…I couldn’t find him.”

“I saw a child fall down. Under a shower of bullets, I rushed forward and went for the picture. It had been a peaceful march, the children were told to disperse, they started singing Nkosi Sikelele. The police were ordered to shoot.” Sam Nzima, the photographer, who took six sequence shots of 12-year old Hector Pieterson in those brief moments.

This photograph of  lifeless Hector was circulated across the world and both Sam Nzima (photographer), Mbuyisa Makhubo (the schoolboy who picked Hector’s lifeless body) went into exile for many years later. Today, Sam Nzima has now returned to Soweto where the Hector Pieterson Museum now stands but Mbuyisa’s mother says after she received one letter from him  from Nigeria in 1978, she never heard from him again.

This day sparked what was called the Soweto Uprising, which all changed the course of South African history for good.

In remembrance of all those who lost their lives for education to become a right. So that we could preserve our mother tongue…so that we could stand up for what we believe in…so that our voices could resonate and be heard. So, that we would be free. Today, June 16th remains ‘Youth day’…’The African Child day’.

06 16 2010  Asaya-Lokooji Village, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria.

We visited the Asaya-Lokooji Community to share in the plight of the children and locals.
DSCN1872    A community with over a thousand youths has only one school, two classrooms and a teacher, Miss Bolanle. When she told me everything about how manages to teach every subject to all these children of different ages, she earned my respect even more.
School teacher, Miss Bolanle

We came here so that the people might know that what they lack, some have died for them to have. (“The tenacious taketh the Kingdom by force…”)We came to immerse ourselves in their plight. We came so we might encourage them. We came so they might feel like a part of the rest of their world. We came so they might keep believing.  DSCN1869
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We sought out every single person in that community. All the elders, mothers, fathers, grandpas, grandmas…as long as you could get on your feet, we brought you out. We wanted the children to show their parents what education has made them so far. And no one could tell that these children of different ages and personalities were tutored by only one young lady. She is very meticulous in her dealings with them and anyone could see how much they’ve learned from her.  They entertained their fellow mates with debates, acting, singing and so much more. 
A play to demonstrate the importance of education
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It was a blessing and privilege to celebrate such a historical day with these children. They absolutely blew us away. Everything we saw, we couldn’t believe. One would think that learning under such circumstances would hinder them or intimidate them, but no. They were excited to show us that they are no different. DSCN1870
Save The African Child (STAC) is an NGO formed by Opeyemi Olowookere to liberate African children from the strongholds of oppression, abuse and any form of deprivation….
Opeyemi Olowookere

“We might not be able to do it all…but we can do something”


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