IN 1976 thousands of black schoolchildren took to the streets of Soweto, South Africa. In a march more than half a mile long, they protested the inferior quality of their education and demanded rights to be taught in their own languages.
Hundreds of young boys and girls were shot down by the apartheid regime. In the two weeks of protests that followed, more than 100 of people were killed and thousands were injured.
This marked a new era for the African people and I believe in some sense it meant the minds of black children had been liberated already.
The empowerment of black children began as they demanded what was rightfully theirs — proper education that was not diluted by the misconceptions of the whites. The 1976 youths gave us a picture of what being African means and gave us an example of the power that is within the children of the black soil.
They had a mind that refused to be undermined, but chose to be free. They refused the form of skewed civilisation that had been ignited in our minds, but forced. They refused a sense of inferiority that had been planted into black children from birth and made to believe that they were of no use.
But years later African children have been denied their rights. We have lost what our brothers and sisters fought for.
Many African children are still living under the dark tunnel and the light seems not to shine. And we ask ourselves; what then did the youth of 1976 fight for if that very thing which they seemed to eliminate has come again to this generation?
Many children in Africa are still living in adverse conditions to those previously hoped for in Africa. Many have been denied education — the basic tool which could brighten their future. They still thrive to see a perfect education system that every African child could use with a happy face and a joyous heart.
They seek an education that would empower every African child and not leave the poor outside in failure and poverty. African children still hunt for a quality education that they will be proud of and embrace.
I am also an African child proud of my black skin and sharp mind. I like millions of African children. All should try and copy the example set before us and run the race to victory.
Like in a relay race, each and every year the baton of excellency is passed to us and we should prove that we are strong and powerful beyond measure.
We are guided by the spirit of ubuntu and unity which governed the 1976 youth.
I believe we can make it. We should come together to discuss the challenges and opportunities for the full realisation of the rights of African children. We are all important. We have so much potential and bright ideas within us and we should treasure those in ourselves.
We play a very significant part in the future of this continent and we should equally be treated with respect and dignity.
Thamsanqa Mhlanga is a Lower Sixth student at Founders High School in Bulawayo. He writes in his personal capacity.