18 July 2013
Learners at the school Nelson Mandela first attended as a child have wished the former president a blessed 95th birthday, joining a worldwide chorus of wishes for South Africa’s anti-apartheid icon.
Qunu Primary School, situated in Mandela’s home village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape, will also be engaged in several community outreach programmes to mark his birthday.
The United Nations declared Mandela’s birthday an international day devoted to public service.
Every year, people around the world are asked to mark the occasion by giving 67 minutes of their time to work in their local community. The 67 minutes is symbolic of the 67 years Mandela gave of his life to service.
‘Blessed to have him’
“We wish uTata a blessed day and many more years to live. He remains our inspiration and we are all blessed to have him,” said eight-year-old Yibanathi Sizani.
“We as children, our wish is to spend a birthday with him and sing for him.”
Another learner, 10-year-old Athenkosi Maholwana, also expressed her wish to be with Mandela on his special day.
“I want to sing happy birthday for him and give him a present because I love him.”
Alizwa Nzuzo said he wants to draw a picture for Mandela. “I want to draw him a nice picture and I want to say to him he must come to our school and dance for us.”
Acting school principal Felix Mbolana said every year during Mandela’s birthday, a group of children from the school are taken to Mandela’s home in the village where they celebrate with Tata.
“Sometimes they are taken to Johannesburg if the celebration is there, but they have never missed it,” he said.
“As a school, we try to honour Tata in our own way and this year will be special because he is turning 95. We feel very proud to have our school associated with him.”
As a youngster, Mandela attended school there, where his teacher Miss Mdingane gave him the name Nelson, in accordance with the custom to give all school children “Christian” names.
Situated on a hill, not far from the home where Mandela grew up, the school was renovated in 1995 after Madiba himself personally visited the school. Although he was born in Mvezo, which is another village perched alongside the banks of the Mbhashe River near Mthatha, Mandela has always regarded Qunu as his home.
“He is our son. His primary basic education started here. We are so proud of that and I think the fact that he later became the first black President of South Africa has done wonders for the village,” Mbolana said.
“Thanks to his intervention, our school was renovated to what you see today through the Bill Venter Foundation. He has done a lot for the school and we are so saddened when he becomes ill and wish him all the best health.”
Mandela remains in hospital after having been admitted on 8 June to receive treatment for a recurring lung infection. Doctors have confirmed that his health is steadily improving.