What it Meant, What it Means

A Poem by Asanda Mdikeli – 15 years old

WINNER of the YOUTH PRIZE


Rising up against oppression,
In their school uniforms,
and their faces bright with the fire of resistance;

They were talking about the language of Afrikaans
They were talking about the Bantu Education Policy
They were talking about the racist compartmentalising of education.

They were talking about dropouts and gangs
Their teachers said the same
Their parents said the same

And they meant that!

Today,
In our school uniforms,
We are talking about access to free education
We are talking about access to land.

We are talking about poverty, joblessness and marginalisation
We are talking about racism and sexism
We are talking about frustration and despondency.

We are talking about violence, injustice and bullying
We are talking about economic freedom.

Numerous decades ago, many students were wounded and many lost their lives.
Today, with our fading faces, we watch ours oddly drift away.


Asanda is encouraged, both at school and at home, to follow current affairs, particularly that which concerns young people. For this poem she considered the perspectives of leaders, past and present, such as President Ramaphosa’s 2019 Youth Day speech, and the views of the late Black Consciousness leader, Steve Biko.