- On that morning of 1976, students were simply protesting the teaching of Afrikaans in their schools
- People vilified doctors for letting people die, not understanding that doctors watch people die every day, helpless
- I just don’t want us to get to a point where children have to be shot to bring about change
While in Johannesburg attending Africa’s biggest bridal fair, The Wedding Expo, I and the group of ladies I was with took a detour.
We went down to the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum in Soweto.
It's a few minutes down the road from one of the most famous streets in the world, Vilakazi Street, where Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu both lived at some point in their lives.
The memorial was beautiful. There was a huge blown-up framing of the picture that started to tip apartheid, that of a shot Hector being carried by another student, Mbuyisa Makhubo, with his distressed sister, Antoinette Sithole, running by their side in the 1976 Soweto Uprising.
Hector was one of the first people to be shot during the uprising, and that picture by Sam Nzima caused waves in a world that had up until then not been outraged enough about apartheid – literally, a system of keeping people apart, as our tour guide from Soweto Tours told us.
The memorial carries much symbolism; the pool around the picture symbolising the tears of the parents who lost their children; the sculptured wall of slate with empty spaces running between large swathes of it representing the unity of the students who stood up for what they believed in and the students to whom no one knows what happened , and even the line of olive trees in the memorial commissioned by Mandela himself, running down to the approximate spot Hector was shot.
It’s a stark reminder to never forget what happens after oppression is allowed to run rampant. On that morning of 1976, students were simply protesting the teaching of Afrikaans in their schools. They had done nothing wrong and the songs they were singing and the placards they were holding said as much.
It’s also a stark reminder of a civic duty. Not to be killed, but to stand up for what is right. You see, these students, the thousands who showed up, knew what they were doing was a worthy cause. They knew what they were fighting for.
They didn’t want to die – but they felt that they had to march. That march sparked the world. That protest changed South Africa forever. It started a revolution.
Unfortunately, back home, marching for and believing in something is difficult for many an apathetic Kenyan, whether children are dying or not.