June 16, 2017…Youth Day in South Africa …what a day it was! Thanks to the generosity of our GlobalGiving donors, The Umkhumbane Schools Project was able to host its Second Annual Youth Day History Festival on this day, bringing together learners from all five of our schools to celebrate the promise of youth and the power of education to shape a more just and sustainable society.
It was a day of powerful, magical, moving performances by our learners…poets, dancers, actors, and singers. It was a day of joy in seeing young people join together to express their greatest hopes for a brighter future. Inspired by an idea brought to us last year by a musican and friend in the community, the Youth Day History Festival was the best and most meaningful way we could think of to bring our learners together during this day off from school, to commemorate the youth of 1976 while celebrating the promise and potential of our young scholars in the present day.
June 16, 1976 -- the date that is now etched in South Africa’s timeline as Youth Day -- was the day of the Soweto Uprising, when young people in the Soweto township stood up against South Africa’s apartheid regime and its education policies. What began as a peaceful march ended in the the deaths of 176 young people at the hands of police. Days of violent protest and crackdown followed, leading to a death toll estimated at as many as 700.
Forty-one years later, township schools all across post-apartheid South Africa still lag far behind their more privileged counterparts in terms of resources and performance. Through our maths and science programs, our chess league, our girls empowerment projects, our higher education guidance work, and a host of smaller initiatives, The Umkhumbane Schools Project is striving to make a difference in the lives of young people in one such disadvantaged township -- the beautiful, resilient, promising community which is Cato Manor. Our GlobalGiving supporters continue to enable not only this ongoing work, but also this inspiring Youth Day Festival -- a day of hope and affirmation which, two years in, can now safely be called an annual Umkhumbane Schools Project tradition!
In the days following the Festival, there remained a palpable energy among all the learners, teachers, volunteers, and performers who gathered on June 16. As we settled back into our more routine tasks, the sounds of the singing, the words of the poets, and the beauty of the student art work that was on display lingered and lifted us all.
From all of us here at The Umkhumbane Schools Project, Thank You!!!