Six things to do on Mandela Day

Friday, July 16, 2010

Johannesburg - The Nelson Mandela Institute and the Department of Basic Education have called on South Africans to use Mandela Day, 18 July, to make a difference by putting into practice any one of six simple ways to enhance a child's learning experience.

The campaign was launched in Johannesburg at the Nelson Mandela Foundation earlier in the month, with teachers, education activists, government representatives and pupils in attendance, reports

The six Mandela Day ideas are:

One: Create safe and cheery schools
Many creches and schools are not happy, safe and warm. Taking some time to help clean the classrooms or work in the garden will create an exciting and inspirational space for pupils.

Two: Make and donate educational toys
Many creches and classrooms don't have basic educational toys like puzzles and blocks, but these tools allow children to have fun while they learn.

Three: Give a fun book
Give a favourite book or write a story, one that a child is sure to enjoy. Many children don't have access to books written in their mother tongue, but often it is in this way that they form a lasting connection with books.

Four: Read together
Reading to children, and with them, will allow them to experience the joy of books.

Five: Tell a story
Story-telling is a way of passing on history, and teaching children about life, especially when the story is told by a person who has experienced the events they are relating.

Six: Support children at play
Children learn through both independent and organised play, but many don't get the chance because they don't have suitable supervision and guidance at break times, or after school.

The Nelson Mandela Institute for Education and Rural Development (NMI) is based at the University of Fort Hare in Alice in the Eastern Cape.

The call has gone out for South Africans to take inspiration from the six core ideas and do their bit to ensure that all local school children benefit from having easy access to books.

The focus of the 2010 event is libraries, and supporters are encouraged to participate in the stocking of such school facilities all over the country.

Kim Porteus, NMI executive director, said that ideally, every day should be a Mandela Day. "A child's success in education depends on the number of joyful words he or she is exposed to in the first eight years of life," she said. "Books are more powerful than we know."

The inaugural Mandela Day took place in 2009 on the elder statesman's 91st birthday. Originally a South African event, the UN General Assembly later proclaimed 18 July a global campaign, which marked the first time that the world body honoured a specific person with an international day of celebration.

Millions around the world embraced the concept of devoting at least 67 minutes of their day to helping people in need. The number 67 symbolises the 67 years of Mandela's life spent in public service - including five years as South Africa's first democratically elected president.

Businesswoman and NMI board member Basetsana Kumalo called on the private sector to support early education, and reminded those present that much of Mandela's power and dignity stemmed from his readiness to take a stand for others.

"We are waging an economic war, but education enables you to make better choices," said Kumalo, whose mother was a teacher. "Through education we can fight poverty, sexism and discrimination, and win."

Themba Kojana, chief director in the Department of Basic Education, expressed his department's willingness to partner with the NMI and the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

"Government carries the responsibility of providing children with a quality education. However, we can't do it all alone and this is where partnerships are so important."

Most Read