Nelson Mandela Foundation

On the 1st of May 1970, Nelson Mandela wrote a letter to his daughter Makaziwe Mandela congratulating her on passing her examinations. Madiba wrote the letter during his imprisonment on Robben Island, and it portrays how Madiba valued education regardless of the situation he was in. Madiba once mentioned that “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”.

In this quote, Nelson Mandela emphasises the importance of education in our lives. Education gives us an opportunity to change our lives for the better. It gives us a chance to have good careers and opportunities of working at any workplace of our choice. By acquiring education, we become valuable sources of knowledge to our societies.

Madiba attended primary school in Qunu. He completed his junior certificate at Clarkebury Boarding Institute and went to Healdtown Comprehensive School where he matriculated. He began his studies for a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree at the University of Fort Hare, although he did not complete the degree. Madiba completed his BA through the University of South Africa (UNISA) and returned to Fort Hare in 1943 for his graduation. In the meantime, Madiba started studying for an LLB at Wits University but was forced to quit in 1952 when he was unable to pay his fees. He only began studying again at the University of London in 1962 after his imprisonment. In the last months of his imprisonment, in 1989, Madiba obtained his LLB through UNISA and graduated in absentia in Cape Town.

In the 1970s at the height of Apartheid in South Africa, Black people were not allowed to study and pursue careers of their choice, or even jobs of their dreams. Instead, they dominated a large percentage of the domestic workforce no matter how young they were and how passionate they were to study and pursue careers of their choice. Unlike today, even prisoners were not granted the right to education. All this changed when Madiba signed the 1996 constitution through which education became a constitutional right  regardless of who and what a person is.

In democratic South Africa, everyone has the right to acquire qualifications of their choice, and obtain a matric certificate regardless of how old they may be. Underprivileged people have an opportunity to apply for government funding to study at any educational institution of their choice. By being educated, we become servants and contribute to the advancement of our communities in building a just society for all.