Dear all

It gives me great pleasure to wish you all a meaningful and significant 2017 Youth Month. This year’s theme is “The Year of OR Tambo: Advancing Youth Economic Empowerment”. The theme hopes to inspire young people to uplift their communities through economic development initiatives, but also hopes to inspire every young person to use their education to change the lives of their communities. This year’s theme is also a call for society to continue investing in our youth, availing to them sustainable solutions for employment and economic productivity.

Youth Month pays tribute to the school pupils who lost their lives during the June 16 1976 uprising that began in Soweto and spread across the country. In this year’s 41st commemoration of the uprising, we pay tribute to those leaders and student activists who took a stand to fight for a free South Africa. Today, South Africa enjoys its democracy because of the youth of 1976.

As we commemorate the contributions made towards the freedom we enjoy today, I would like to remind you of your responsibility as the youth of 2017. You have an important role to play in advancing and defining the direction of your country for yourself, but also for your future children. While statistics have indicated that unemployment among young people is high, you have the potential to change that.

Use your education and skills to change your lives and that of your communities, not through simply seeking employment, but becoming a job creator. Bring about the change you want to see, not only for you but for your peers and for future generations.

Let us use Youth Month to celebrate the milestones that we have made and continue to make a meaningful impact, as the University of KwaZulu-Natal, to the lives of South Africa’s young people. We must dismantle and defy the notions of “a lost generation” no matter how tempting they may be to define the current challenges that confront the youth in our country. This year, ours is a message of hope and renewal – that young people will attain the economic empowerment they are fighting for in their lifetime.


Dr Albert van Jaarsveld
Vice-Chancellor and Principal
University of KwaZulu-Natal

1 to 30 June

Theme: “The year of OR Tambo: Advancing Youth Economic Empowerment”



June is celebrated as Youth Month in South Africa, with a specific focus on 16 June, which is also known as Youth Day. Youth Month pays tribute to the school pupils who lost their lives during the 16 June 1976 uprising in Soweto.

This year marks the 41st anniversary of the Soweto uprisings.

On 16 June 1976, more than 15 000 students gathered at Orlando West Secondary School with the intention of participating in a peaceful march to the nearby Orlando Stadium.

The demonstration had been planned in protest against the use of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction at schools.

However, the police and armed forces responded to the protest violently and the first fatality of the day was Hector Pieterson, a 12 year old pupil who was shot by the police. It is believed that 175 others were also killed that day.

This violent backlash to what was meant to be a peaceful march caught the attention of the international community. After this event, many countries imposed sanctions on South Africa in an attempt to force the apartheid government to ease its repressive rule.

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