In light of the 40th anniversary of the 1976 student protests, Nikhiel talks about the relevance of 16 June 1976 to today’s students and whether the rights demanded then have been realised, even though they may be written into our constitution, e.g.:
• The right to equality (section 9). Equal education for all was the slogan of the 1970s and 1980s because during those years there were only “bush” colleges for black students and apartheid schools that taught “Bantu” education to black children
• The right to freedom and security of the person (section 12). This includes the right to “be free from all forms of violence from either public or private sources”
• The right to protest which is contained in section 17 and is articulated as being the right to demonstrate, picket and present petitions peacefully and unarmed. Here the issue was the right to protest peacefully without fear of violence or threat. The fact that hundreds of children were shot dead despite the march being peaceful undermined that right completely. And over the years the right to protest was curtailed even more with the vast array of state legislation including the state of emergency laws, detention without trial laws, and many others. But the question now is whether the right contained in section 17 is real or not for leaners and students
• The right to education. The Constitution provides that “everyone has the right to receive education in the official language or languages of their choice in public education institutions where that education is reasonably practicable. ..”
What is the characteristic of student protest now? Is it different? What are the issues? How do the struggles being fought for now by students relate to the struggles being fought then?
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