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Education Apartheid (Knowledge Investment) and Nelson Mandela

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If we also follow Mandela’s vision and commitment to enhance Nepal’s prosperity through education and science and technology, our country will also be a prosperous one. (theme highlight)

Nelson MandelaNelson Mandela, famously referred to by his clan name, Madiba, has left a vacuum in the hearts and minds of the global  community. The people of Nepal mourned his death by raising the national flag half-past as a mark of deep respect.  Scores of leaders had lined up to pay respect tothe most revered leader of this century.  Australian PM Tony Abott said while mourning the death of Mandela we are also celebrating the celibacy of the father of South Africa. The UN Secretary General said that Mandela was not only one of the greatest leaders of this century but a future hope.  His greatest  strength  was his  reconciliatory approach that   was reflected in his distinctive smile .

US President Obama said he was the last great liberator of this century. He said that Mandela taught him how to become a nice person. He further said that many leaders vow to follow his vision but they don’t tolerate the racial prejudice in their own country whilst Mandela always practised what he had preached. In  Nepal, politicians need to take the Mandela’s message of reconciliation, write the constitution and unite the country instead of political bickering all the time and every time.

As an academic and chair of Knowledge Investment initiatives of the NRNA (SKI), I want to share his greatest contribution to the education of the poorest in South Africa and his fight for anti education-apartheid that many of us may not know. Mandela once said that:

 “Education is the most powerful weapon in which you can change the world”

He had always emphasized the importance of education and believed that his own education had played a greater role in preparing him for a long and arduous fight for South Africa’s freedom from Apartheid.

"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."

One has to visit his home village Qunu to witness his belief in the education revolution. In this small village he turned several rundown schools into modern day education facilities. As a president, Mandela used his influence to woo donors to help him build new classrooms and move children out of dilapidated mud structures. One of the schools is the Qunu Junior Primary, which was turned into a modern school with state-of-the-art computer and biology laboratories.

Principal Zwelethemba Mki recently said, "He has done a lot for us and other schools in the area and for that, he has become an inspiration to the kids there.” Mandela had personally telephoned him to urge all teachers to ensure that all learners were computer literate from Grade 1 and to make sure the learners were equipped with all the knowledge and they should all use computers from the very early age. A multi-million rand technical school has also been built in Qokolweni village, situated about 20 km from Mthatha and about 15 km from Qunu. The school caters to more than 1, 000 pupils from 10 surrounding villages and townships, and doubles as a night school for adult literacy classes and a community skills training centre.

“He showed us that in life you can achieve anything irrespective of your background, through education. Nelson Mandela serves as an inspiration and motivation to reach for the stars and his respect for education speaks volumes about him,” said the Nelson Mandela Institute for Education and Rural Development. The Institute was launched by Mandela in 2007 at his alma mater, the University of Fort Hare.

He was always worried that public education in South Africa was in a mess. Nelson Mandela believed that if China could lift around 500 million people out of poverty in just 30 years through education reforms and investment, we should do similar work in South Africa.  His contribution to education is set to benefit many young minds in the days to come.

Mandela’s greatest legacy was his capacity for forgiveness, his towering intellect and his passion for our homeland and above all, his passion for education. Africa today stands on the threshold of economic take off. It has vast natural resources. It has a young, strongly growing population. According to recent estimates, Africa’s current population of 1.1 billion will grow to 2.4 billion by 2050. Most strikingly, a third of the planet’s young people will be African by then.  Mandela foresaw the potential of Africa’s children. “It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation,” he said.

Mandela seemed bemused by renowned scientist Prof Stephen, whose voice emanates from his computer. But Nelson and Stephen have so much in common – their struggle against overwhelming odds, their exceptionally clear thinking and ability to communicate and most of all their unfailing belief in young people and power of knowledge. Mandela believed that Africa’s future will be driven by science, technology and innovation. Africa’s development challenges demand home grown solutions implemented by skilled young Africans. Africa’s communities represent a vast untapped pool of scientific and technical talent, talent which is urgently needed for the future.

The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) is truly inspired by Nelson Mandela and Steve Hawkins and its mission is to enable Africa’s brightest students to flourish as independent thinkers, problem solvers and innovators capable of propelling Africa’s future scientific, educational and economic self-sufficiency. They want to build a pan-African network of 15 centres by 2021. It will graduate 750 students annually who will have the mathematical, research and scientific skills to serve Africa’s development needs in academia, industry and government. The goal of the Institute is to create conditions in which next Einstein could emerge in Africa. They want to turn development on its head, to see Africa not only for its problems, but also for the great positive contribution it can make to the world. Realizing the talents of its young people will drive progress on the continent, and bring new energy, vitality and diversity into science, stimulating discoveries whose consequences we can only imagine. “Let Africa do for science what it has already done for music, art and literature. Let Africa be the place where we connect our intellect with our humanity Einstein with Mandela,” said Neil Turok, director and Niels Bohr chair at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ont., and founder of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences.

If we also follow Mandela’s vision and commitment to enhance Nepal’s prosperity through education and science and technology, our country will also be a prosperous one. The NRN knowledge investment initiative is a small step forward in the right direction and Open University and Science foundation initiatives provide an opportunity for Diaspora population to work unitedly and help contribute in the overall development of Nepal.

Dr Adhikari is the Chair of Skill Knowledge and Innovation (SKI) Task Force of the Non-Resident Nepalese Association (NRNA) and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



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