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On 16 June, the City of Johannesburg hosted a number of events to celebrate the country's youths and honoured those who lost their lives in defence of their right to quality education.

Sam Nzima's iconic photograph of the dying Hector Pieterson after he was shot by the police on June 16 1976Sam Nzima's iconic photograph of the dying Hector Pieterson after he was shot by the police on June 16 1976ON that fateful day 37 years ago, hundreds of Soweto schoolchildren were shot dead by apartheid police while protesting against the use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in the township's schools, with young Hector Pietersen becoming the first victim.

The commemoration of the day began in the early hours of the morning with a symbolic march in Alexandra Township. Johannesburg Executive Mayor Clr Mpho Parks Tau addressed the participants at the end of the march and officially unveiled a plaque at Realogile High School. The entourage then proceeded to Westdene Dam for a ceremony hosted jointly with the Kathrada Foundation.

The ceremony that commemorated the Westdene Dam disaster was included in this year's June 16 programme as part of South Africa's social cohesion initiatives. On March 28 1985, 42 learners from Höerskool Voerentoe lost their lives when their school bus plunged into the Westdene Dam. On that tragic day, about 3 000 people gathered near the scene as doctors tried to resuscitate children pulled from the submerged bus.

In another event, Soweto residents gathered at Naledi High School for a march. The march, under the theme "Walking in the Footsteps of the 1976 Generation", followed the June 16 trail towards the Hector Pietersen Memorial Square en route to Orlando Stadium.