11 July 2014
Members of the public have been urged to donate books about Nelson Mandela and other liberation heroes to schools, libraries and other organisations in need as part of a new Mandela Day initiative by the Gauteng Department of Education, LeadSA and Proudly South African.
The initiative, launched at the Nelson Mandela Foundation on Friday, aims to improve the literacy rate among young South Africans while preserving Mandela’s legacy.
Pupils from Saheti, Roedean and Redhill primary schools got the ball rolling, making a generous donation of books that was received by Gauteng Education Minister Panyaza Lesufi.
Madiba’s great-grandson, Luvuyo Mandela, speaking at the launch, said that beyond simply encouraging children to read, adults should act as role models in making sure that children saw them reading.
“If [Nelson Mandela] wasn’t reading a newspaper, he was reading a book,” he said. “I would see this and it was hugely encouraging.”
Also speaking at the launch, long-time friend of Mandela, Advocate George Bizos, talked about the importance of teachers as role models, citing his own experience growing up, as well as that of friend and politician Popo Molefe. “Both of us went to school and furthered our education because of one important teacher in each of our lives,” he said.
Another of Mandela’s long-time friends, Ahmed Kathrada, spoke of his time on Robben Island as a prisoner during the struggle for freedom. “Even under adverse conditions, prison inmates would study. We would work in the sun with picks and shovels for eight hours, and then spend the night in our cells studying.
“Madiba was always adamant about the importance of education,” Kathrada said, adding, in a message addressed to all young South Africans: “Our country needs skills in every direction. With your freedom, you have a major responsibility to serve yourself and South Africa by investing in education.”
Lead SA’s Yusuf Abramjee said: “Let’s all join hands and see how, in each small way, we can contribute to the biggest Mandela Day we’ve ever seen. Please donate a book to your local library or school and join our pledge to keep the legacy of Madiba alive.”