Your heritage gives you a sense of identity and rootedness – it is essential to building your future, believes a young academic.
If you do not know where you come from, you cannot know where you are going – that is why understanding your culture and heritage is important.
This is according to Thapelo Mokoatsi (29), who is a History PhD candidate at Rhodes University in Makhanda, Eastern Cape.
Mokoatsi spoke to Vuk’uzenzele as South Africa commemorates Youth Month, which is celebrated in June, with a specific focus on 16 June, which is also known as Youth Day.
Mokoatsi said the youth of 1976 paved the way for the generations that came after them, especially black youth, through their bravery and resilience in a fight for better education.
“The generation of 1976 comprised a collection of individuals who were very much aware of their generational consciousness. They decided that they would not continue to be taught in a language that oppressed them,” he said.
Today, South African youth enjoy access to better educational opportunities because of the legacy left by the youth of 1976 and those who took the baton from them.
“Young South Africans have been doing great things, especially black women my age who are completing their PhDs and becoming top academics. This is what South Africa needs,” he said.
However, Mokoatsi believes that young South Africans, especially black people, still have a long way to go before they can fully enjoy the fruits of democracy that the country attained 25 years ago.
“To be a young South African today means that you constantly have to play catch-up. Knowledge of self through one’s own perspective is lacking, and that is because our history is soiled by colonial forces… South African youth need to start realising that the messaging about providing for their needs is not helping them anymore,” he said.
One of the contributing factors, to the problems that young people face is not knowing their history and heritage very well.
“I encourage young people to read as much as they can and to embrace education because it is the best way to access the treasures our ancestors left us – our heritage!” he said.