Mount View High School in Hanover Park celebrated Africa Day last Wednesday, by honouring anti-apartheid activist, Amy Thornton.
Earlier this year, Ms Thornton, a Rondebosch resident and former Athlone News columnist, received the Order of Luthuli for her work during the struggle for liberation in South Africa.
Every year the Department of Home Affairs chooses specific schools to research a stalwart of the struggle, with the children getting a week to do this research, focusing on who the person is and what their contribution to the liberation struggle was. The pupils at Mount View High School, were tasked with researching the life of Ms Thornton, 84, who was one of the 20 000 women who marched to the Union Buildings on August 9,1956, and handed over a petition against the pass laws to then president, Johannes Strijdom. In April this year, president Jacob Zuma, awarded Ms Thornton with the Order of Luthuli.
The Grade 12 pupils’ work was displayed as part of a presentation held at the school for Africa Day – May 25 every year. The presentation also included the history of Africa Day, as well as a presentation on building role models for South Africa, and the importance of the Order of Luthuli Award.
Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Fatima Chohan, said that Africa Day is about celebrating the diversity of humanity.
“A successful nation is one that embraces diversity and uses it to leverage its success. Africa Day is equally about celebrating the diversity of humanity. Africa is the birthplace – the cradle of human-kind – in all of its shapes and sizes. We celebrate not a continent ravaged by slavery and colonialism but the highest achievements of humanity. We note that no one nation on the continent can truly prosper without others, we look ahead to a future of integrated development and prosperity,” said Ms Chohan.
During Ms Thornton’s speech, she recited a few lines of the Freedom Charter: “We, the people of South Africa declare, for all our country and the world to know that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people.”
Ms Thornton also said her parents being active in the struggle had influenced her to get involved as well. “The event was absolutely charming. The kids were lovely. It was a very happy occasion, the marimba band was also lovely. My message to the pupils was, if they see injustice taking place, they shouldn’t keep quiet.
“When people ask me why I became involved in the struggle I say I had parents who were very involved in the struggle and therefore influenced me to take part. The first time I participated was when I was 16. It was a bit scary but very exciting. People were putting up posters for the election. I can’t remember how many times I was in jail but I know it was a number of occasions,” said Ms Thornton.
Mount View High principal, Archie Benjamin, said it was important to honour Africa Day because “we are all part of Africa, and we need to unite.
“Amy Thornton is a South African, she is part of the struggle so we honour her. We are all part of Africa and we must unite as a country. Some South Africans don’t feel part of Africa but we all are,” said Mr Benjamin.
“Young people don’t know the history of our country so this project is important to have. It is a great privilege to host Amy Thornton at our school,” he added.