Today’s students should learn from the 1980s protests, says former activist

Trojan Horse massacre victims honoured

Photo of march in Athlone
Hundreds of students, former students, teachers, religious leaders and community members marched from Belgravia High School to Thornton Road to commemorate the Trojan Horse massacre of 1985. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

Today’s students should learn from the protest movements of the 1980s, lawyer and former Belgravia High student Peter Williams said today.

Speaking at the school during a ceremony to honour the victims of the 1985 Trojan Horse massacre, Williams said: “In the 1980s we were able to distinguish between short term demands, medium term demands and long term demands”.

“Today we don’t see that distinction being made. We must learn from the 1985 and 1986 student movement.”

Former activist and Belgravia High student Peter Williams addressed the meeting at the school. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

“We know that education today is in crisis. And we need a sustainable solution,” Williams said.

“And so for the Fees Must Fall campaigners, I want to say: spearhead that call. Show us your theoretical understanding. Show us your position papers on where you are, and where you want to go,” said Williams.

About 500 students, former students, teachers, religious leaders and community members filled the Belgravia High School hall to mark the anniversary of the Trojan Horse Massacre. The school also celebrated 60 years of existence.

On 15 October 1985, apartheid security forces ambushed protesters in Thornton Road, Athlone. They opened fire and three protesters were killed: Shaun Magmoed, 15, Jonathan Claasen, 21, and Michael Miranda, 11.

In the 1980s, students from Belgravia High School, Alexander Sinton and Rylands High played a major role in the student protest movement.

“Athlone played a pivotal role in the history of our country,” said Williams.

Thirty-one years after the massacre, Belgravia High honoured the dead with speeches, a march and the laying of flowers at the memorial site where the violence occurred. A five minute video was shown.

Belgravia High School principal Andre Buis laid a wreath at the Trojan Horse memorial site in Athlone. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

Participants sang the national anthem and the struggle song Senzeni Na? (What have we done?). Flowers were laid by Belgravia High School principal Andre Buis and SAPS officers.

“This event means a lot to me because it gives me an idea about what actually went on in the struggle,” said Aaminah Pearce, a grade 12 pupil at Belgravia High.

Grade 12 student Aaminah Pearce spoke at the memorial site. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

She said her struggle was similar to those of the 1980s. “Even though apartheid is no longer in the system anymore, there are still racial inequalities, and also socio-economic inequalities” said Pearce.

Pearce said she hoped to study education next year at university.

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TOPICS:  Tertiary Education

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