facts about Nelson Mandela's childhood

Nelson Mandela is a widely respected and acknowledged figure. His work and sacrifices in ending apartheid in South Africa earned him both a Nobel Peace Prize and the South African presidency. However, many people do not know much about Mandela’s childhood.

Top 10 Facts about Nelson Mandela’s Childhood

  1. Mandela was born into the Xhosa culture
    The Xhosa culture is the second-largest cultural group in South Africa. They are smaller only than the Zulu, who are their long-term rivals despite numerous cultural similarities. The Xhosa are known for being a peaceful people and live mainly in the southern part of the country.
  2. He was a member of a royal family and was next in line to be chief
    Mandela was born in 1918 to the Thembu tribe, part of the Xhosa people, as a member of the tribe’s royal family. His father served as chief of the village he grew up in, and when he died, Mandela was groomed by a tribal regent to take a leadership position at a later age.
  3. He had a very large family growing up
    Nelson Mandela’s mother was the third of his father’s four wives. The chief is expected to take multiple wives from different families within the tribe. Through them, Mandela had nine sisters and three brothers.
  4. Nelson was not his real name
    One of the more surprising facts about Nelson Mandela’s childhood is that Mandela’s given name at birth was Rolihlahla. In Xhosa, this means “pulling the branch off the tree” or “troublemaker”. The English name Nelson was given to Mandela by a schoolteacher. This was a common practice among black South Africans.
  5. He was the first in his family to get a formal education
    Although born into a family of importance, Mandela was the first to gain a formal education. He received this as part of his grooming for future leadership.
  6. He attended missionary and Methodist schools
    Nelson Mandela’s childhood was filled with training and education. He attended a local missionary school, a boarding school and then a Methodist secondary school.
  7. Mandela was an athlete in school
    While attending a Methodist secondary school, Mandela was a multi-sport athlete. He was involved in boxing as well as track and excelled at both.
  8. He attended the University of Fort Hare
    Mandela went on to college at the University of Fort Hare. This was an elite South African school that was the only “Western-style” higher education available to black citizens in the country.
  9. He left school more than once while in college
    While at Fort Hare, Mandela and other students were sent home for boycotting certain university policies. He also later left school to avoid an arranged marriage and completed his bachelor’s degree by correspondence in Johannesburg.
  10. He studied law at the University of Witwatersrand
    Mandela studied law at the University of Witwatersrand, where he earned a degree and became involved in the fight against racial discrimination that made him famous.

Nelson Mandela may seem like a larger than life figure, but he was still just a man. His experiences influenced who he would become and how he would come to view the world. These facts about Nelson Mandela’s childhood help us to understand who he was as both a leader and a man.

– Megan Burtis

Photo: Flickr

Right to a Childhood
In the last two decades, international organizations and nonprofits have turned their attention toward the right to a childhood. Children are vulnerable not only due to their age but also due to their lack of resources, low education and inability to effectively communicate. This combination has left children susceptible to child labor, child marriage and sex trafficking, forcing them to grow up quickly without a childhood. More must be done to harmonize regional, international and local laws to clearly define the age of a child in order to prevent confusion and children slipping through the system in order to allow every child the right to a childhood.

Prioritizing children’s right to a childhood in Malawi has a significant meaning for many young women combatting forced marriage. Child marriage, with parents’ consent, is common in Malawi for children between 15 and 18 years old. In 2015, Malawi amended its marriage law to increase the minimum age to 18. The constitution allows marriage at 15 years with parental consent.

Malawi’s Protection and Justice Act defines an adult at 16 years of age. The Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child defines an adult at 18 years. Harmonizing these laws would reduce confusion and decrease forced marriage by increasing the age of eligibility to marry. If this harmonizing of laws and redefining of age proves successful, this could be an example used for other countries combatting childhood labor, child soldiers and early childhood marriage, increasing availability of the right to a childhood.

The protection of a child’s innocence, as well as their right to a childhood, should start much earlier than marriage. Right to Play was founded in 2000 by four Olympic gold medalists and an entrepreneur. The nonprofit focuses on protecting a child’s critical years. “While food, water and shelter are essential, so is a childhood, complete with education and opportunities to actively engage with other children,” its website states. The organization teaches children life skills, which will help them overcome inevitable conflict and disease as they grow up.

Games engage children to participate in the programs, while the “Reflect-Connect-Apply” approach forces the children to examine their life experiences. Then they relate those experiences to their education. They finally apply this technique to their daily lives. “Reflect-Connect-Apply” focuses on creating positive, sustainable change in three areas: education, health and living in peace.

In some parts of the world today, children are not able to experience the benefits of a right to a childhood. Organizations and NGOs working on the ground level of local villages are teaching communities the value of play combined with an international movement to harmonize laws and clearly define an age for a child could help. Protecting the right to childhood is good for the immediate community and generations to come.

Danielle Preskitt

Photo: Flickr

No matter the continent, nursery rhymes are the soundtrack to childhood. Their purposes vary, from soothing a child to sleep, to singing loudly on the playground to learning the ABCs. They are important tools to teach kids about nature, family and social practices. At any age, rhymes are fun to recite and provide a sense of innocence and playfulness that is too often robbed by economic and social hardships. More importantly, they show that children are children, no matter where they are born. Here are a few popular verses from cultures across the globe:

United States:
A-tisket, a-tasket
A green and yellow basket
I sent a letter to my love
And on the way I dropped it
I dropped it, I dropped it
Yes, on the way I dropped it
A little boy picked it up
And put it in his pocket

A tree planted on the riverbank
Look at its leaves
Playing with the wind
Even us, let’s play with the wind

An elephant
Had a very long nose!
He went to take a mouse
He went to take a lizard
He tied them to a tree

I have a doll dressed in blue,
Little white shoes and her lace shawl
I took her for a stroll, she got sick
I have her in bed in a lot of pain
Then I called the doctor and he prescribed me
A little prescription that cured her

Uncle Bouki, Uncle Bouki,
Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping?
Get up to play the drum, get up to play the drum
Ding, ding, dong! Ding, ding, dong!

The stone bridge broke down,
The water came and took it down!
We’ll build another one,
Another one that will last and is even more beautiful!
We’ll build another one,
Another one that will last and is even more beautiful!

Our kind grandmother
Has chickens in her yard
Chickens and chicks
Geese and Goslings
Our kind grandmother
Has a sewing machine
And sews and patches
Our grandfather’s pants

Sri Lanka:
In this orange tree, there are many ripe oranges
And branches hanging down.
Two oranges are enough for my sister and me.
We are not naughty children
Who pick all the oranges.

Sound of the birds all over the lowland
Everybody feels admiration for it
The honeybees settle on the flowers
The sweet lambs are looking for some grass
The leaves on the green trees
All these fragrant and fresh soils

French Polynesia:
Sleep baby
Mommy is at the reef
Daddy is in the valley
Looking for bananas
To make cooked bananas for baby

These nursery rhymes expose the beautiful similarities and variances of childhood in different cultures and show how each country approaches educational development through music.

Stefanie Doucette

Sources: New York Times, Mama Lisa’s World
Photo: Fun Links Daily

More than a Ball: Alive and Kicking
Sports play an essential role in the development of children. They provide structure and help teach hard work and discipline. For underprivileged kids, it may be one of the only healthy releases from the difficult lives they have. For kids in Africa, the sport that supplies this release is football, known as soccer to Americans. Yet many African children live in environments where sports equipment – such as soccer balls – is not affordable or accessible.

Thanks to Alive and Kicking, these kids have not had to worry about how they can play soccer. The only legitimate manufacturer of sports balls in Africa, Alive and Kicking has provided over 500,000 balls to impoverished children. Their impact goes far beyond simply producing sporting equipment. Below are the positive impacts Alive and Kicking has on the people of Africa.

  1. Employment: Alive and Kicking has been helpful in improving the economies of local African communities through the hiring of citizens to help manufacture balls. They have had 120 people hired to produce the balls on their manufacturing line. Each of these people has at least six family members and the wages they earn can help provide enough for their families. The employment has helped stimulate local communities with revenue as well.
  2. Healthy Lifestyle: Some children in Africa are subject to things that no developing youth should have to endure. Their ability to play soccer with their friends and be active in a normal way is extremely beneficial. Even if it helps them escape their unsuitable environment for even a few minutes, it is a success.
  3. Replacement of Makeshift Balls: Children in poor living conditions are often forced to stitch together materials and make their own ball, and these balls do not last long. Alive and Kicking provides synthetic stitched balls that will remain in good condition in any environment.

Alive and Kicking continues to make a profound impact in Ghana, Kenya, and Zambia. But they need help. Donations are instrumental in funding the production of sports balls. A generous donation of 100 dollars would provide eight soccer balls for school systems and communities, impacting the lives of many children. A much more modest donation of 15 dollars provides a child with a ball. These gifts may be small but will play an important role in a child’s life. For more information, visit Alive and Kicking’s website.

– William Norris

Sources: Alive and Kicking, CNN
Sources: Globo

Nelson Mandela's Childhood

Nelson Mandela’s life has been exemplary in many ways. Through his patience, his perseverance, his strength and his courage, he managed to lead South Africa through troubled social and economic times to become one of the world’s largest emerging economies and bring an end to apartheid to establish a new “Rainbow Nation” in honor of its racial diversity.

Nelson Mandela’s childhood is no less remarkable than his career. From a family that was traditionally powerful – his father was in line to be chief until a dispute robbed him of the title – Mandela came from humble beginnings. After his father was dispossessed of his status, his family was forced to move to a small village, where he was raised in a hut and lived a very simple life, eating what they could grow and playing with the other village boys. His first name was Rohlilahla, meaning “troublemaker” (an apt name for the man who would later become the leader of the African National Congress). He adopted Nelson when he began formal schooling and was given an English name.

After his father died, he was sent to live with Jongintaba Dalindyebo, a regent of the Thembu people, who began raising Mandela to assume a position of leadership when he grew older.

Mandela’s interest in African history is said to have started during his lessons next to the palace, where he studied English, Xhosa, geography, and history. He became interested in the effect of the arrival of the Europeans on the nation and the people. Later, in a coming-of-age ritual in the village, Chief Meligqili, a speaker, uttered words that would greatly influence Mandela.

“He went on to lament that the promise of the young men would be squandered as they struggled to make a living and perform mindless chores for white men. Mandela would later say that while the chief’s words didn’t make total sense to him at the time, they would eventually formulate his resolve for an independent South Africa.”

From the village, Mandela would go to boarding school and later university, which would feed the fire of his emerging interest in the rights of South Africans.

Mandela disproves the common conception that one needs to come from an established background in order to be successful; what made the difference in Mandela’s case was the education afforded to him by Dalindyebo, and later through boarding school and university. Mandela’s understanding of his own country’s history and his exposure to multiple facets of life gave him insight into the lives of many of the different citizens of the country.

Much of Mandela’s strength stemmed from a humble background and the early lessons of hardship and the value of each opportunity.

– Farahnaz Mohammed

Photo: The Guardian