Police marched alongside pupils on Friday June 16, a reversal of what happened on the same day in 1976 when police shot students protesting against being taught in Afrikaans and sparked a nationwide uprising.
Last week, 31 years later, police and the neighbourhood watch escorted the students in the anti-crime march which they helped to arrange.
About 400 Kraaifontein pupils from Northpine Technical, Bernadino Heights, Eben Donges and Monument Park high schools converged on Van Riebeeck Road, from where they marched to Simonsberg Primary School to hand over wooden “pledge” bricks to Kraaifontein police station commander Brigadier Gerda van Niekerk.
The pupils had pledged to stay away from crime, abuse, gangsterism and drugs and, as a symbol of their pledge, their names were scored onto the bricks, which will be built into a Wall of Pledges at the police station.
Somewhat poignantly, pupils from Hector Pieterson High School – named after the dead 12-year-old boy in Sam Nzima’s iconic photograph that became a global symbol of apartheid’s brutality – were unable to attend but they sent their bricks in a box.
Chanting slogans and singing songs, the wooden bricks became convenient clappers as the pupils made their message clear in an energetic noise.
“You are the ambassadors for the good side. Stay there. Stay on the good side. From the police, we are going to help you to excel,” saidCaptain Gerhard Niemand of Kraaifontein police as he opened the event at Simonsberg Primary School.
Leaders from the four schools took to the podium to pledge verbally what they had already committed to in writing weeks before.
“We, the learners at Bernadino Heights High School, hereby pledge to stand against gangsterism, drugs, crime and abuse in Kraaifontein and at our high school,” said Zimfefe Madikizela,to raucous applause and foot stomping.
Keagan Geysenberg of Eben Donges High School said: “Long, long ago in Soweto we were only taught in Afrikaans but we fought against that, and now we will stand up and fight against crime. I pledge to build the community.”
Rozario Vermeulen, of Northpine Technical High School, described how he had come home the day before to find dead body in front of his home in Scottsdene.
“I just decided that I had enough,” he said. “The thing is, what are we going to do? We have to go out there and take it back. Take our community back.”
Monument Park pupil Laura Carelse said: “At this time of the day, if your feet aren’t sore, if your throat isn’t sore for shouting on the streets for something you believe in, what are you still doing here?
“We really took our voices back today, we took our streets back today and put the attention back on the youth, where it belongs.”
Brigadier Van Niekerk encouraged the pupils to speak up against crime. “If you see something that is not building the school or the community, you must not keep quiet because if you keep quiet about the small things, it will lead to bigger things.”
Kraaifontein Community Police Forum chairman Mawethu Sila said the young people were continuing the legacy left by the youth of 1976. “The youth of 1976 stood up when they knew it was not fashionable to be on the streets, but they knew what they wanted. Here the youth have taken that foundation and started building on it. You are a Kraaifontein changer.”