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South Africa’s democracy is turning 30 – but a silent crisis threatens its hard-fought gains

Seth Mazibuko was just 16 years old when he helped lead the Soweto youth uprising on June 16, 1976. He was held in solitary confinement for months before being jailed on Robben Island for seven years. Soweto, South AfricaCNN — Seth Mazibuko strides into the intersection of Moema and Vilakazi Street in Soweto, gesturing to the spot that changed South African history. “This is where the students who were marching peacefully had a first confrontation with the police,” he says. It was June 16, 1976. Mazibuko had turned 16 the day before. Tens of thousands of students, mostly still just children, streamed through the township to protest the racist education system of apartheid. For decades, apartheid forced many indignities on the non-white population of the country. Perhaps most tragically, it relegated Black South Africans to a sub-par education and reinforced their place in a segregated society But few could have predicted the state violence that followed. The final straw for Mazibuko and other student leaders was the switch to instruction in Afrikaans – a language few of them understood, and the language of the oppressors. “When we were raising the hands and fingers of peace, we were met with bullets. I still feel guilty today that I led students and children out of the classroom to be killed,” he says. Hundreds of students were killed, scores of student leaders, like Mazibuko, were sent to prison, and many more went into exile. The Soweto uprisings, as they have become known, changed the trajectory of the anti-apartheid movement, and set South Africa on the eventual path of liberation. But as South Africans celebrate 30 years of democracy this week, many educators and activists believe that there is a crisis hollowing out the country’s education system – a crisis that threatens democracy’s hard-fought gains. CCN

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The Kabul times, Afghanistan Trustable News Agency.