Milestone to freedom

HIS year marks 34 years since school pupils shook South Africa by taking to the streets and giving birth to the epoch-making June 16 Soweto riots.

Today some of them look back and reminisce about that fateful day that changed the history of South Africa.

One such person is Maggie Makgoba, a former principal at Progress High School in Pimville.

Makgoba has recently been elected president of the Professional Educators Union.

She remembers that she was a first-year student at Jabulani Teachers' Training College and they were frustrated at being taught in Afrikaans.

"To make matters worse, we were taught by teachers who did not even understand Afrikaans in subjects like mathematics, biology and science. The breakout of the riots came as a big relief for most of us," she says.

She says the June 1976 riots brought many changes in the system of education.

"Today you can, as a teacher or learner, raise concern about issues, unlike before where you were detained for uttering any negative thing about the system," she adds.

However, Makgoba says one of the big challenges experienced in education is the curriculum.

"Teachers are now grappling with a lot of paperwork which hampers them from imparting knowledge to the learners."

Jacob Chapatso, principal of Enkolweni Primary School in Dobsonville, says he is sad because of the laziness and ignorance of today's youth.

"These young people do not take their education seriously. To crown it all, the June 16 riots are not even included in their syllabus,'' Chapatso says.

One of the teachers at Enkolweni, Dumakude Lujabe, a member of the South African Democratic Teachers Union, says not much has changed since June 16 1976.

"The social life of learners has not changed and we still experience overcrowding in our schools.''

But Motlalepula Ngobese, a teacher at Thusanang Primary School in Molapo, says there have been many changes brought about by the riots. "We now have many opportunities which include learners going to any school of their choice."'

Many pupils told Sowetanthey got to know about the events of that day through their parents, teachers and neighbours.

Nkululeko Botlhole, a Grade 10 pupil at Tetelo High School in Protea North, said he heard that people were detained, some killed simply for being outspoken. He heard that people had to carry passes wherever they went.

Dondolo Mvimbi, a Grade 10 pupil at Joosub Secondary School in Lenasia, said it was shocking to think that blacks and whites could not use the same toilets.

"Was this practised by the same white people we are living with today?'' he asked.