The month of June commemorates and honours heroes and heroines who fought selflessly to change the face of racist South Africa (Pic.The Archival Platform)

MIDRAND – Some former liberation war activists in SOUTH AFRICA have embarked on a project to enlighten young children about events that brought independence to the country.

Sub-SAHARAN AFRICA has a number of such people, most of whom have been frustrated by politicians after fighting colonialism and left to roam the streets of their still impoverished homes.

However, in SOUTH AFRICA there is a non-profit group calling itself the PAN AFRICAN GENESIS, fighting to uplift the lives of military veterans and their families.

Organisation Chairperson SIBONGILE KHUMALO says they have taken it upon themselves to teach the youth about the truth of 16 JUNE 1976 SOWETO Uprising and the national history.

Sibongile Khumalo after the war (Pic. Mail & Guardian)

She says youngsters should know exactly where they come from not just the facts like the killing of the young boy HECTOR PETERSON on the day. People do not hear about how such information penetrates the young minds.

Ms KHUMALO, a military veteran who went into exile when she was just 14 and half years old, says the authorities are not telling them the truth of what happened on 16 JUNE and the experiences of people who left the country.

The former liberation war fighter and some of her peers have this week brought together pupils from different schools around the MIDRAND area of SOUTH AFRICA.

They sat with them around a fire and told them about the truth of SOUTH AFRICAN history, a gathering Ms KHUMALO says used to be called a braai site chat.

She says such events are like in the olden days when their great great grandfathers used to sit them outside to tell them stories that had value, not what you people see in movies.

The elders would tell them real accounts about how things were done and shared their indigenous knowledge.

Another veteran, THANDI MONARENG, has shared with the pupils the story of their FIRST few days in exile, and how apartheid regime agents had caught them earlier at the border with SWAZILAND.

Military veterans Thandi Monareng and Sibongile Promise Khumalo share with young people their experiences of being in exile (Pic. SABC News)

She says they went to jail for some time before they were eventually released from custody and fled to neighbouring MOZAMBIQUE.

However, life was hard in the host country – because the authorities took them to a camp where many of the people did not have legs and used wheel chairs after having walked on land mines.

The story reminds Ms KHUMALO of how she had her FIRST monthly periods after seeing the sea in MOZAMBIQUE. As someone from SOWETO, she had never seen so much water.

She says the shock of seeing an endless water body for the FIRST time proved to be too much for an already traumatised 14-year-old girl.

Yet, there was no mother to walk you through the experience. She had legless people around her, went to jail at some stage, and ate worm-infested oats from RUSSIA. And this became the beginning of years of pain and hardship.

Ms KHUMALO says being a young person in exile was hard, and being a young woman made it even worse, as she was later raped in ONE of the camps. Rape and other sexual abuses occurred to many young women.

The end of apartheid brought a lot of expectations to Ms KHUMALO and her comrades, but what they see in the country now is not what they thought they would see.

She says she came back with a lot of anger. But she has overcome the feeling and only remains with the annoyance about how the governments are treating young people after independence.

SABA News says some of the pupils at the braai side chat are from DR MATHOLE MOTSHEKGA Primary School, but when asked who the person is, they do not know.

Ms KHUMALO says such things make her angry because it is a clear indication the government is failing to educate learners properly.

She says veterans know the people after whom the streets are named, because they took care of them in exile. Yet these kids have no idea who it is.

Her daughter, popular TV and radio host MASECHABA NDLOVU has also spoken at the event, describing how it is to be born in exile and not knowing home until she was much older.

Ms NDLOVE has urged youths to live their lives with the courage their 1976 peers had, saying that was the most important thing they can get.

She says crossing the border aware such a move is a recipe for death needs bravery, enough to say I will be part of the change, I have a voice, I can make a difference, I have power.

ONE of the pupils, KHODANI MULAUDZI, says the event has opened her eyes to the realities of being in exile and just how many people fought for freedom but are never spoken about.

She says she has learned that there are so many who fought for national freedom but are not recognised because people only know of NELSON MANDELA and WALTER SISULU.

KHODANI says the TWO icons worked with many other persons closely; but when ONE goes deeper, ONE discovers there are many who actually did more than the celebrated ones.

The SOUTH AFRICAN student says she has decided to do her own research of the national history instead of depending on what she learns at school and in the media./Sabanews/cam

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