By Mathiba Molefe
Hector Pieterson's story has become one of those most closely associated with South Africa's struggle for freedom.
The image of an unconscious Hector, being carried by fellow pupil Mbuyisa Makhubo, with Antoinette Sithole, Hector's sister, running alongside, is one of the most iconic images of the 1976 Soweto student uprising. It was taken by photojournalist Sam Nzima.
Born in 1963, Hector was only 12 years old when he was shot by police during a peaceful protest by schoolchildren against Bantu education in Soweto, Johannesburg, on 16 June 1976.
Police claimed that the bullet was not intended for the schoolchild, but investigations, ballistics testing and the post-mortem revealed that the bullet had been shot directly at Hector and had not ricocheted off the ground.
He was one of the first of 560 casualties of the 1976 Soweto Uprising. There are conflicting reports of who was the first fatality on the day. Another boy, 15-year-old Hastings Ndlovu, was most likely the first child to be shot, although it's probable that Hector died before him. Hector was declared dead when he arrived at Phefeni Clinic, while the doctor on duty at the then Baragwanath Hospital who treated Hastings, Malcolm Klein, puts the time of his death at around noon or shortly thereafter, several hours after he was shot.
Since 1994, 16 June has been observed as a public holiday in South Africa; it is called Youth Day, in memory of the victims of that day and the days that followed.
The events have been commemorated in the Hector Pieterson Memorial in Soweto, just two blocks away from where he was shot 40 years ago in Orlando West, as well as in the Hector Pieterson Museum, which was opened in 2002.