One of the world’s greatest personalities and awe-inspiring leaders, Nelson Mandela gave a new meaning to revolution. Having been elected the first black President of South Africa after the country’s long battle with apartheid, he was the beginning of a new dawn for those who faced misfortune in its worst manifestation. With a vivacious zeal for life and a smiling face, he became a force to reckon with in his fight against apartheid. With America facing a massive upheaval and actively protesting against racial discrimination, black people are still struggling to be seen as equal in a world that discriminates on a paltry issue like skin color. Through this blog, we aim to explore the journey of education of Nelson Mandela, the revolution he led against his country’s oppressive white regime, and the lessons we can learn from him to create a better and equal world for everyone!
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“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s Anti-Apartheid Hero
A social rights activist, anti-apartheid leader and philanthropist, Nelson Mandela remarkably contributed to his country’s long strive to attain freedom from white oppression. But what set him apart from other revolutionaries of that time, was his non-violent and defiant campaign against the South African government and their racist policy of Apartheid. Even in the present times, he continues to be an inspiration in a world where the western nations are still fighting for equal rights for the black community.
For his crucial role in his country’s freedom and for his commendable efforts as a human rights advocate, Nelson Mandela was also awarded the esteemed Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and was lauded with accolades like Gandhi Peace Prize and Lenin Peace Prize. Nelson Mandela wrote extensively about his early life and the struggle he led against apartheid. His autobiography ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ is a chronicle of his life and the years he spent in prison which is as relevant today as it was when he fought against racial discrimination.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
Educational Journey of Nelson Mandela
Born on 18 July 1918 in the small hamlet of Mvezo, Nelson Mandela’s birth name was Rolihlahla Mandela and his parents were Nonqaphi Nosekeni and Nkosi Mphakanyiswa Gadla Mandela of the Madiba clan. Destined to take up the role of the clan’s chief, his father was a principal counsellor to the acting king of the Thembu clan and passed away when Mandela was only 12 years old. He was left under the guardianship of the Great Palace in Mqhekezweni. Before the start of the formal education of Nelson Mandela, he spent his formative years listening to his elders’ stories of valorous deeds aimed at liberating the country. These stories left a bigger impression on the little boy who was still learning about life and inculcated in him an urge to work towards his nation.
“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
The primary phase of education of Nelson Mandela began from a missionary school near Qunu. He was the first one in his family to attend the school under the prevalent British educational system and that’s where his teacher changed his tribal name Rohilahla to Nelson. A few years later, his father died due to lung cancer and he was adopted by Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo of Thembu. He spent a carefree life as a young boy in Mqhekezweni and was given the same status and responsibilities as the Chief’s two other children.
“We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.”
In the next phase of the education of Nelson Mandela, he took classes at a one-room school in the chief’s palace where he studied Xhosa, English, History, and Geography. He developed an interest in African history as he used to spend time with the elders in the Great Palace listening to their stories of the glorious days when African people lived in peace before British colonizers arrived. He learned about the brotherhood and joyful times the African community was living in until white men invaded the country and destroyed their fellowship.
“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”
Reaching the age of 16, Mandela was asked to take part in the African circumcision ritual which was conducted to mark the transition of boyhood to manhood for young African boys. Working as a counsellor to the chief, Mandela continued his studies at Wesleyan Mission School and then the Clarkebury Boarding Institute. The secondary education of Nelson Mandela was completed at Wesleyan College. He went ahead to study a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Fort Hare but was expelled in the second year when he decided to join a student protest. He came back home and was shocked to listen to the Chief’s announcement of his arranged marriage.
Feeling trapped as his whole life has been already planned by the chief, he decided to run away and start working as a mine security officer while he completed his BA from the University of South Africa and actively took part in African National Congress meetings. Getting himself enrolled at the University of Witwatersrand, Mandela studied LLB and a year later co-founded the ANC Youth League in 1942 thus embarking upon the crusading journey to fight against the white oppression. With ANC Youth League, he travelled around the country campaigning for his non-violent protests against the National Party’s laws.
Spending more than 27 years behind the bars, Mandela fought relentlessly against the white oppressors with his belief in non-violence and defiance and later became a candidate in the 1994 general election and got elected as the first Black president of South Africa.
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
The Fight Against Apartheid
During the phase of higher education of Nelson Mandela, he joined the African National Congress (ANC) as early as 1944 when he worked towards forming the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) realizing the power and strength of the youth of the nation. Apartheid was a legislative rule in South Africa which allowed discriminatory and segregationist rules against the non-white people of the nation. Literally translated to ‘apartness’, Apartheid was brought forward as a policy by the Afrikaner National Party in order to propagate segregation amongst people based on the color of their skin. Nelson Mandela was amongst the major leaders to protest against this unjust policy which was devastating for many people. He demanded a non-racial constitution for the nation which was denied and he was put on trial for the same. On being acquitted, he started plotting a revolutionary uprising against the existing rule. He was later imprisoned for his role in the protests raging across the nation and got released in 1990. Being a champion negotiator, he went on to challenge the white minority rule and was eventually elected as the first elected President of the nation in 1994.
“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”
Life Lessons to Learn from Nelson Mandela
The man with a heart of gold and a larger than life figure, Nelson Mandela continues to inspire people around the world even today. With the formative education of Nelson Mandela rooted in tribal tradition, cultures, and beliefs to his formal academic years spent within the periphery of the British educational system, it was his vision and values that gave him the courage to contribute to the nation’s efforts of gaining freedom from white oppression. Below we have listed down the pivotal life lesson you can learn from the life story of Nelson Mandela:
- Be an Optimist: Even in the darkest of times, Nelson Mandela didn’t lose hope and looked forward to a day his country would be truly free of racial segregation. You must always be hopeful in life no matter what circumstances throw at you and know that you will make it through with hope and optimism.
- Making a Difference to the World: Nelson Mandela’s life is a pioneering example to understand the strive to change and shatter the orthodox beliefs that no longer serve society. You should learn from his relentless endeavours to bring revolution in the oppressive world of white people and making the presence of underprivileged communities known.
- Nothing is Impossible: Nelson Mandela has always believed that life is full of miracles and these miracles can be brought about only with an individual’s hard work to transform the impossible into the possible.
- Be Passionate: Dreaming is not the only step to achieving a goal, it needs incessant hard work and passion. Nelson Mandela’s life serves to reiterate this lesson as he was passionate to devote himself to the country’s freedom struggle.
- The Utmost Role of Education: The education of Nelson Mandela was carried out under the British educational system but he gradually grew more passionate towards African history. His English-language education fostered a feeling of inadequacy in him in terms of the history of his community and how they were continuously repressed under the white regime. This motivated him immensely to took part in the social uprising and even during his prison years, he kept educating himself as he saw learning as an escape from the trapped world of a prison.
“Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.”
Nelson Mandela Day
To honour his legacy and promote the teachings of Nelson Mandela, 18th June is celebrated as Nelson Mandela Day. This day is an opportunity for everyone to reflect upon themselves and imbibe the values of Nelson Mandela like courage, forgiveness, altruism, patience, and self-confidence. The Mandela Day campaign message says, “Nelson Mandela has fought for social justice for 67 years. We’re asking you to start with 67 minutes.” The UN also has established a General Assembly for the quinquennial award- the Nelson Mandela Prize, which enables in recognizing the achievements of the people who dedicated their lives to the service of humanity.
Nelson Mandela Books
Apart from being an exceptional leader, Nelson Mandela was also a phenomenal writer and used his time in prison to ponder over the world and his people. He wrote many books which have been acclaimed globally and are still read by the masses. Listed below are some of the best books by Nelson Mandela.
- Long Walk To Freedom
- Conversations With Myself
- Dare Not Linger: The Presidential Years
- Prison Letters
- In His Own Words: From Freedom to the Future
- Mandela: An Illustrated Autobiography
Thus, a born leader and philanthropist at heart, Mandela played an indispensable role in bringing freedom to a nation that lived in the shadows of racism and white oppression. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” is what Nelson Mandela always believed in. We at Leverage Edu support his beliefs and ideas on education and thus we ensure that every individual gets the best quality education to become successful. Reach out to our counsellors and experts and we will help you find the right path to actualize your dream career!