JOHANNESBURG - Morris Isaacson High School played an integral role in the 1976 uprisings. But pupils currently at the school face different challenges.
They say rampant drug use is plaguing their school.
Pupils have been reflecting on their school’s rich heritage while hearing a first-hand account of what happened on 16 June from a former Morris Isaacson alumni.
Phala Modise, one of of the class of 1976, told the pupils, “It was a march against Afrikaans as a medium of education. We were angry because Afrikaans was the language of the oppressors. We were oppressed by the National Party.”
He says he and his fellow Morris Isaacson High students had no idea they would be making history.
But, as he retraces his steps, Modise unearths part of this school’s rich history.
He says, “Mr Malebane was our deputy principal and as he was about to conduct assembly, Tsietsi Mashinini and Murphy Morobe went and gently asked him to excuse himself because they were going to conduct assembly that day. We sang Nkosi sikelel' iafrika and then Tsietsi Mashinini motivated us… Reminded us of what the day was all about - solidarity with our brothers and sisters at the secondary school.”
“It was when we arrived in Orlando West where it all happened. The funny thing is, although Orlando West was also a high school and we were expecting them to have taken students from elsewhere so that we all march, they were actually busy writing an exam. In the class that I actually went to they were writing an Afrikaans exam and we sort of just jumped on the desks, made noise and removed their papers.”
Although it was a fatal battle, Modise and his generation ultimately won their fight.
But todays youngsters question whether they’ll have the same story of victory to tell as they fight the plague of rampant drug use.
Modise believes remembering they come from a great lineage of leaders, who have shown what can be achieved, will help present students overcome their challenges.
But he says there must be a level of sobriety as we look back.
* View the attached video for a more in-depth view of the past and present challenges that have impacted Morris Isaacson High School