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Bega Kwa Bega

December 6, 2013

Yesterday the world lost a shining light. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela brought light into darkness. Some people branded him a terrorist for the methods he used to bring equality and democracy to a country ruled by racism, violence and tyranny. But, those people did not walk in his shoes or bear witness to the brutality of Apartheid. I always planned to write today but could not do so without paying some tribute to such an influential figure. The blogs I read and write and the people I follow speak of changing education and thereby changing the world in which we live. We speak of doing things differently and of innovation. Maybe we need to look to Mr. Mandela for some guidance.

It always seems impossible until it is done

How often do we hear students exclaim that something is impossible? How often have we said it when confronted with change? Nelson Mandela devoted his life to overcoming obstacles far greater than most of us will ever face. He never gave up. He never lost the dream for his beloved country. In June, 1964 Mandela faced life in prison with his fist raised. He entered his challenges with hope and determination. While the problems we encounter cannot compare to what he went through, how can we build this sense of courage and determination into the students we teach?

Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world

For a long time while at school, I leave the staffroom after lunch or breaks saying: time to change the world! My personal description on Twitter is: trying to change the world one student at a time. I have been fortunate to have students return to the school or send me emails after they graduate and tell me about the impact I had or the impact the school had on them. As teachers, we can change the world. A few weeks ago I wrote a post on this blog asking what teachers wanted their legacy to be. The responses were varied but there was a consistent theme – teachers want to positively change the world. This is not an impossible goal. We can do it. However, we must get beyond politics and rhetoric to achieve this change. I have often told parents, students, and colleagues that we are all in this together. Is Nelson Mandela’s life not an example of this simple fact. He spent 27 years in prison because he fought for change. However, upon release from prison, he did not harbour resentment or hatred for those who imprisoned him. Rather, he was filled with compassion and forgiveness in order to move forward. We can do this too. There should be no adversaries in our schools. We all must have the same goal – the education of the children in our building. Everyone should fight this battle together. Parents, students, administrators, board members, and teachers. This is not about who is right or who is the loudest in a debate. This is about promoting positive change and educating ethical, engaged students.

Bega Kwa Bega

This is a Swahili saying which means Shoulder to Shoulder. I know that Nelson Mandela did not speak Swahili. However, I felt it encapsulates the spirit of his life. He stood shoulder to shoulder with those who would oppress him. He stood shoulder to shoulder with those who accused him of terrorism. He stood shoulder to shoulder with men, women and children. I believe Nelson Mandela’s message is this: stand shoulder to shoulder. Be one and be a united voice for equality, democracy, and peace. Barack Obama said yesterday “Nelson Mandela is no longer ours. He belongs to the ages.” It is now our responsibility as teachers to ensure the ages remember this message.

Thank you for taking the time to read my post. Enjoy your Friday and have a wonderful weekend.

Best,

Sean

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