Here is a short refresh as supplied by about.com:
In June, Form 1 and 2 students from Orlando West Junior Primary School staged a classroom boycott. Students from seven other Soweto schools eventually joined them. The police were summoned by the Department of Bantu Education to address the issue. A students meeting was held in Orlando on Sunday 13 June. About 400 students attended. At the meeting, Ta call was made for a mass demonstration against the use of Afrikaans on 16 June.
On 16 June, students assembled at different points throughout Soweto, then set off to meet at Orlando West Secondary School. Witnesses indicated that between 15,000 and 20,000 students, in school uniform, marched. The Bureau of State Security (BOSS), which was in charge of South Africa's internal security, were caught unaware. A police squad was sent in to form a line in front of the marchers. They ordered the crowd to disperse. When they refused, police dogs were released, then teargas was fired. Students responded by throwing stones and bottles at the police. Students set fire to symbols of apartheid, such as government buildings, municipal beer halls and liquor stores, Putco buses, and vehicles belonging to white businesses. Anti-riot vehicles and members of the Anti-Urban Terrorism Unit arrived. Roadblocks were set up at all entrances to Soweto. The battle between students and police continued into the night.
The dawn of 17 June revealed burnt-out cars and trucks blocking the roads; liquor stores, beerhalls and community centres were burnt to the ground. The official death toll was 23; others put it as high as 200. Many hundreds of people were injured. Students again poured into the streets. Parents stayed away from work to watch over their families. Police patrolled the streets. By the end of the third day of rioting, the Minister of Bantu Education had closed all schools in Soweto.
The rioting soon spread from Soweto to other towns on the Witwatersrand, Pretoria, to Durban and Cape Town and developed into the largest outbreak of violence South Africa had experienced.
39 Years on and 21 years into our democracy, education remains a volatile sector. Language remains a centrepiece of the debate around admissions to schools, alongside our poor quality learner outcomes and massive curriculum change over the last 20 years. As a nation we are still battling to get-it-right; and it is more complicated than ever, with globalization and the demand for varied skills showing our education system as falling short. The increasing demand for jobs is adding to the unstable bedrock of our society. So, lets remember not to forget 1976…we still find ourselves encased in the same circumstances, with time slowly running out before our youth again say: enough-is-enough!