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South Africa: Nelson Mandela, the world’s teacher, passes away

published 6 December 2013 updated 9 December 2013

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, affectionately known as Madiba, anti-apartheid activist and first democratically elected president of South Africa, died last night at the age of 95.

Education International and its South African affiliates, the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU), the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (NAPTOSA), the Suid-Afrikaanse Onderwysersunie (SAOU), and the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) mourn the loss of a great leader who has inspired millions around the world.

“Mandela was a teacher in the purest sense, an inspiring figure who led by example. He will be remembered for his humanity and moral courage, to which we all should aspire,” said Fred van Leeuwen, EI General Secretary. “He gave a lesson to us all, as we continue as teachers to contribute to achieving equality and social justice for all.”

Revolted by the ever-increasing suppression of civil rights during the Apartheid regime, he took up the struggle for equal rights for all South Africans, regardless of the colour of their skin, and was sentenced to life in prison.

However, the flame he lit could not be smothered, and after long years of increasingly violent repression, the Apartheid regime came to an end.

Having spent the better part of his life in prison, Mandela emerged to unify his nation and lead it through a process of reconciliation and reconstruction.

“The time for the healing of the wounds has come. The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come,” Mandela said in his acceptance speech on becoming South Africa’s first black president in 1994.

As president, he began the difficult process of putting in place initiatives in education, healthcare and economic development to address the gaping social and economic inequalities in South Africa and improve the country’s living standards.

His visionary approach, wisdom, and unwavering moral integrity made him a universally respected elder statesman after he retired from politics and public life.

“I leave it to the public to decide how they should remember me,” Mandela said before his retirement. “But I should like to be remembered as an ordinary South African who together with others has made his humble contribution.”

The educators of the world will remember Madiba with affection and sympathy.

To leave a message of condolence, please visit http://www.nelsonmandela.org/

Please click here to read the letter of condolence to South African affiliates sent by EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen.