In December 2013 Nelson Mandela passed away in South Africa at the age of 95 years. Many world leaders came to South Africa to say goodbye to this giant who was able to guide South Africa from possible bloodshed in the period of the transition of power in the period from 1990 till after the first democratic elections in South Africa in 1994 when everyone could vote for any candidate or party at the same time in the same elections.
He was elected as president of South Africa and worked during his term of five years in office to reconcile the people in the country. He stepped down after his first term and devoted the rest of his life to furthering a number of causes. The most important one of them was and is education. He understood the value of education and worked tirelessly to install that belief in many people. This is a far cry from the slogan, “Liberation before education” that was used during the days of the struggle in South Africa.
For South Africans Mr Mandela is known as Madiba, his clan name. This is how Martin Hall describes his understanding of Madiba’s position on education and an interaction with Madiba when he was close to the end of his tenure as president of South Africa.
Madiba had a lifelong respect for education: in his early years at Fort Hare; in pursuing legal qualifications (and writing examinations under threat of a death sentence in jail in Pretoria); on Robben Island, in his now famous organisation of seminars while working in the blinding light and dust of the lime quarry. He saw equality of opportunity through education as key to emancipation, a principle yet to be realised in South Africa, or elsewhere.
This respect for informed and independent thought and for freedom of expression was apparent in one small encounter that I shared with others in 1999 in the last year of his presidency. With little warning or ceremony, some 20 of us from the University of Cape Town, led by our vice-chancellor, were invited to Mandela’s nearby home. President Mandela wanted a seminar to evaluate the successes and failures of his time in office. For three hours he responded to our commentary: on reconciliation; on economic policy; on HIV and Aids, then growing to epidemic proportions in South Africa. His respect for informed criticism and research-based perspectives was palpable. When the time came for us to leave, he showed us out himself, waving as we drove away. (Martin Hall)
Madiba continued after his period as president confirming through his actions the importance of education. His leadership in combatting HIV/Aids once again was education in action. His quotes on education will inspire others:
“Young people must take it upon themselves to ensure that they receive the highest education possible so that they can
represent us well in future as future leaders.”
“No country can really develop unless its citizens are educated”, is another quote that we need to adhere to. This applies to any country anywhere in the world.
In South Africa today there are many who are free politically, but many are still prisoners financially. This is the reason why a political party will attract attention and maybe even votes if the preach economical freedom and the benefits that go with that. So the question today is: how do you get this economical freedom. Does it come through a weapon or intimidation or does it come through education?
Let us take two stories of two young ladies that live and learn in the same area in a so called township in South Africa, an area where a number of people live in quite proximity to each other, some in better accomodation and others in smaller and cheaper places. Let us call the one lady Sindi and the other one Thandi.
Sindi does her schooling, but does not complete it. She is forced to leave school by her circumstances. She looks around for a possible job and then finds that cleaning a house is a possibility. She earns $15 per day for that, but her transport leaves her with about $10 per day. Out of that she needs to buy food and pay for lodging. That does not leave her much, even if she works everyday of the week.
Thandi does not complete school either. Her circumstances forces her into the same job as Sindi, which is cleaning of houses. She gets the same amount of money as Sindi. The difference is that Thandi spends $5 per day on her education every day. She learns to speak better English and English for business. She learns some selling skills and negotiation skills. She also learns how to program. She has the same time every day as Sindi and the same amount of money, but she uses it differently. She learns mathematics and a bit of science.
Now Thandi has the ability to program on a basic level on the internet and computers. She spends 6 hours every day on that and gets paid $5 per hour. Her income now is $30 per day which will leave her with $25 per day. She again uses half of that on education. She becomes an even better programmer. She now earns $25 per hour. Everything is changing for her as a result of the income that she is generating. As she is very good in English as well she is able to get work from all the English speaking individuals in the world that would like to employ her on a contractual basis. Her income is not limited to the economic conditions of the region or country where she lives.
Thandi works hard and puts in ten hours of work per day. She employs two people that she pays $15 per day. She makes over $200 per day after her expenses. Setting aside $150 per day she will be able to buy one of the better houses in her area after 400 days of work
That is less than two years of hard work when she is qualified enough to give that value to the market place to command about $25 income per hour. She needs some other skills in this process though.
She must be able to negotiate and market herself (or have someone do this on her behalf). Her communication abilities in English must be great. Then what is probably the most important skill has to do with financial intelligence. A car must not be first on her list of ‘new toys’or ‘so called’ assets. Rather it must be something that can produce income. Again the education is paramount. She needs a thorough understanding of money and the pitfalls around money. Then of course she does not want to continue working ten hours per day. She wants to work less hours and have time for life as well. Again there is the choosing of a partner and starting a family. Education is vital again.
It goes even further than this. Thandi can start a business employing other people to do what she is doing. Now it is a question of getting someone to manage them if that is not what she wants to do (or should do). Then it is controlling the finance. After that comes expansion and a possible listing on s stock exchange somewhere, but everything comes back to education again.
One of the greatest gifts of Madiba was that he made it quite clear that education is immensely valuable. He also demonstrated this throughout his life leading by example and by his involvement in various campaigns and foundations after 1999 when he left the South African Parliament.
Madiba was a remarkable man. Let us give others the chance through education (in it’s widest possible meaning as well) to make the world a better place for all.