A Tribute to the Education Legacy of Mandela - Nelson Mandela Institute for Education and Rural Development


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A Tribute to the Education Legacy of Mandela

“There can be no contentment for any of us when there are children, millions of children, who do not receive an education that provides them with dignity and allows them to live their lives to the full.

“It is not beyond our power to create a world in which all children have access to a good education. Those who do not believe this have small imaginations. ”

Former President Mandela, Launching the Nelson Mandela Institute, 2007

We join the nation and the world in celebrating the breath-taking life of Tata Madiba. As we look up at his life, may we be reminded of the best of our collective self, and of the beauty of all of our children.

The Nelson Mandela Institute was launched by Tata Madiba in 2007 at his alma matre the University of Fort Hare. As his public run for education came to its end, he handed off a burning baton to the public to take forward his unfinished work ‐ creating a system of public education that serves the best expression of all of our children.

If there was ever a tribute to Tata Madiba, it will be this ‐ a system of education that affirms the humanity and potential of our young…

Of all his achievements, the one he still spoke most proudly about to the end of his life was the completion of his studies. When asked about his most important message for young people, he said ‐ they must study hard. When asked about his message for leaders around the world, he said simply ‐ they must focus on education.

As we find ways to celebrate his life now and into the future, may we make one suggestion. Perhaps the one most important thing we can do collectively to build our system of public education is a simple day to day act ‐ a simple act of love — the act of reading to our children every day. By our children we do not mean only the children within our own homes — but our collective children. It would mean that we would find ways of reading every day to all of our children between the ages of 0 and 12. It would mean the massive mobilisation of all of us ‐ as parents, young people, the elderly, community and religious leaders, teachers ‐ to make sure that our children are exposed to joyful text every day. This would require a massive mobilisation of children’s books in all of our nation’s languages, and finding ways of making these books available to all of our communities and children.

Our children would grow up in a country where reading and words are associated with loving care rather than only school based stress. Reading would not be what we do at school ‐ it would be who we are. We would use the single most powerful activity available to us to increase the educational chances of all of our children.

How beautiful would that be?

Hamba kakuhle beautiful leader of our nation. The man who believes in our children. The man who sings twinkle-twinkle to every child he sees. The man who knows inside his bones the power of education. The man who leaves us with the rest of the run. Tsamaya ka kgotso.