Today marks the end of seven days national mourning declared for Nelson Mandela in Zambia. Over the past week, Lubuto Libraries have been places where children came to reflect on what Mandela meant to them. This was achieved through reading, discussion and drama performances. Many of the children already know about Mandela’s life and his great sacrifice, largely due to things they have read in the libraries or from mentoring sessions where Mandela has come up as an exemplary figure. The children see Mandela as someone who they can look up to as an inspiration. Referring to Mandela’s humble beginnings in Qunu, one child said “we should not forget were we come from and even if we are poor we can achieve our dreams.” They were also deeply affected by the fact that he forgave his captors after twenty-seven years in prison. Commenting on his extraordinary vision, one girl stated “to forgive people who arrested you is hard… he knew what he wanted.” Mandela will be remembered by most of us as the man who reconciled a nation: white and black, and black and black. His singular leadership qualities are a rarity in Africa and, indeed, the world. One child noted his ability to relinquish power at a time when many African leaders clung on to it. But children also recognize that they can take a leaf from Mandela’s book and becoming leaders in whatever they do. They want to use the opportunities they have to rise above their circumstances and help others, like Madiba did.
By Thomas Mukonde