The Hector Pieterson Memorial
in Soweto was erected in the early 1990's as a memorial to Hector Pieterson, a 12 year old child, who is believed to have been the second school pupil shot by police during the Soweto Student Uprising
on 16th June, 1976
- but the first fatality.
The Hector Pieterson Memorial in Khumalo Street is a few hundred meters from the spot where Pieterson was gunned down.
"To honour the youth who gave their lives in the struggle for freedom and democracy."
The Hector Pieterson Memorial in Soweto
THE HECTOR PIETERSON MEMORIAL :
An open air memorial, with free access to all
THE HECTOR PIETERSON MUSEUM ENTRANCE FEES :
Pensioners : No charge, FREE, mahala!
Students (13 and above) : R10.00
No foreign currency or travelers cheques accepted
OPENING TIMES :
Monday - Friday: 10h00 - 17h00 (10.00am - 5.00pm)
Saturday and Sunday: 10h00 - 16h30 (10.00am - 4.30pm)
Closed on Christmas Day and the Day of Goodwill
8287 Khumalo Street
Telephone : +27 (0)11 536-0611 / 0612 / 0613
Fax : +27 (0)11 536-1465
, 3 years older than Pieterson, was believed to have been the first child shot by police in a separate incident 600 meters away, on the old Orlando West bridge on Kumalo Main Road.
He died of his injuries in the Baragwanath Hospital (since renamed the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital) later in the day.
The bridge in Soweto where Hastings Ndlovu was fatally injured during the Soweto Uprising on 16th June,
is now a pedestrain bridge with a display showing what happened on that day.
Alongside the Hector Pieterson Memorial is the Hector Pieterson Museum
, which opened on 16th June 2002.
The Hector Pieterson Museum, which resembles an interpretive centre, looks at the events that led up to, and includes the 16th June, as a day-in-the-life-of-South-Africa a day that was to radically change the manner in which South Africa was governed, and radically change the course of history.
To understand the Soweto student uprising, we need to look back to the Bantu Education Act of 1953
, which enforced the apartheid ideology of race segregation on all education levels including universities.
White school children were also divided, with English and Afrikaans speaking children attending separate schools and universities.
The vast majority of rural children at the time were educated in Missionary schools, but nearly all of these schools were forced to close when the government stopped funding, and black education was brought under the direct control of the state
A significant increase in funding was made available to the education of black children during this period, but the syllabus was formulated by the state, and in line with the thinking of Hendrik Verwoerd, the Minister of Native Affairs
, who said "...there is no place for [the Bantu] in the European community, above the level of certain forms of labour..."
A memorial erected on the spot where Hector Pieterson was shot,
but now thought to mark the wrong place.
Between 1972 and 1976, the government attempted to improve the quality of labourers by improving their education, and built forty new schools in Soweto.
This increased the number of students dramatically.
The Afrikaans Medium Decree
which had been implemented in 1974, made Afrikaans, as well as English, the teaching medium for black children during their final six years (Std. 5 to Matric) at school.
English had always been accepted as a teaching medium, but there was huge resentment to Afrikaans, as it was seen as the language of the "oppressor".
On 30th April 1976, the first signs of resentment showed, when students at Orlando West Junior School
in Soweto, called a strike, and refused to go to school.
This soon spread to other schools, and on 13th June 1976, a pupil at the Morris Isaacson High School
- *Teboho 'Tsietsi' Mashinini
, who was well-liked, intelligent, captain of the debating team and president of the Methodist Youth Guild, suggested a meeting to find a solution.
(*Mashinini died mysteriously in exile, but was subsequently exhumed and buried in the Avalon Cemetry in Soweto)
The result of this meeting was that the Action Committee
, formed by students, and later known as the Soweto Students' Representative Council
, called for students to march on June 16th, from different parts of Soweto towards the Orlando West Junior School to pledge their solidarity with those on strike.
The plan was to have the leaders address the students, and then end the protest.
An information signpost indicates a number of historically interesting sights in the vicinity of the
Hector Pieterson Museum, seen in the background.
A more accurate underlying cause of the protests was the inferior Bantu Education, although the whole apartheid system would have been the true cause of any protest.
On Wednesday 16th June 1976
, when pupils were due to start writing exams, and despite police roadblocks set up to stop the marches, an estimated 15,000 students took to the streets in different parts of Soweto.
One group of children was confronted by police on the corner of Moema and Vilakazi Streets, outside the Orlando West High School
The police were ill equipped to control the marchers, and after rocks were thrown and teargas and a number of warning shots fired - but before the children could disperse, the police opened fire.
, a photographer for The World newspaper
in Johannesburg, was there to take the iconic photo of *Mbuyisa Makhubo
, an 18 year old fellow student, carrying Pieterson, with Pieterson's traumatized sister, then 17 year old Antoinette, running alongside.
Makhubo ran to Sam Nzima's car, and Pieterson was driven to the Phefeni Clinic, where he was pronounced dead.
(*Makhubo was harassed by the police after the incident and went into exile in Botswana. From there he went to Nigeria, where he was last heard from, before vanishing without a trace)
The modern red brick structure of the Hector Pieterson Museum, which houses a powerful and moving
tribute to the Soweto Uprising of 16th June, 1976.
The student uprising of 16th June 1976 is commemorated every year as a public holiday, celebrated as National Youth Day
Although the idea is to honour all young people, Nelson Mandela
, in his speech on release from prison in 1990, acknowledged the debt owed by all black South Africans to the students who gave their lives in Soweto on 16th June 1976.
A novel temporary Hector Pieterson Museum, consisting of a display in a number of cargo containers, was put up on the site in the 1990's, prior to the construction of the present Hector Pieterson Museum.