Thirty-seven years ago today, Soweto erupted in a violent protest against apartheid-era education.

The Soweto Uprising on June 16, 1976, was a turning point for the resistance movement against the white only government.

Thousands of students boycotted school and marched in protest of a government decision to enforce education in Afrikaans, considered the "language of the oppressor." South African police opened fire on the students. The number of casualties varies, but close to 200 students died, most shot in the back.

Today, tens of thousands of youth snaked their way along the same roads, singing and chanting, in an exuberant mood in spite of the country’s nationwide anxiety about Nelson Mandela. The former president is still in a Pretoria hospital, in serious condition.

But South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma said today, "we are grateful that he continues to get better. I invite you to join me today, in wishing Madiba a very happy Father's Day."

At Regina Mundi Church in Soweto , a parishioner said she was happy Mandela was still alive on Father’s Day because "he is the father of the nation."

Asked if she’s ready to let him go, she replied "I am ready, because he has done his part on Earth."

In Soweto, on June 16, 1976, one of the youngest students shot dead was 13-year-old Hector Pieterson. The picture of his body being carried by an older student, with Hector's distraught sister at his side, has become one of the most iconic images in South Africa’s resistance history.

At the Pieterson memorial, young people laid wreathes of yellow roses and white carnations. Titi Mthenjhane was one of the student's protesting back in 1976; he is head of the June 16th Foundation.

"We didn’t expect them to shoot us. We saw people falling, we couldn’t believe it. That attack on the students that day, it was the spark of no return."

Mthenjhane was jailed six years later for his revolutionary activities. When he got to Robben Island, he met Nelson Mandela, who was already in prison.

It will be hard when he leaves, says Mthenjhane. "We have to pick up the spear that Mandela carried and move forward."