Nelson Mandela’s Strong Stance On Education And Literature

Nelson Mandela is a man whose name was thrown around in our history textbooks throughout the school. Which is very ironic since he was one of the largest enthusiasts for education and literacy.

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Nelson Mandela’s advocacy for dialogue and equality of black people around the world is etched in our memories. Throughout his life, he had been very vocal about his belief in the importance of education and literacy. He believed that in the fight for social justice, development, and just to be someone who is able to go through adversity, there is nothing more important than education and literature. Let’s go deeper into this great man and his strong stance on education.

Who was Nelson Mandela?

A Nobel Peace Prize winner, the first black leader of South Africa, and an anti-apartheid activist, Nelson Mandela dedicated his life to the pursuit of ending racial segregation in his country. He spent 27 years in prison for it, but even through it all, he continued to impart his wisdom and urge peace between races. 


When he was released from prison, his movement quickly rose to fame. He was pivotal in dismantling the anti-apartheid movement and eventually became South Africa’s first black president. 

With his struggle for justice and equality throughout his life, he became a symbol of courage, peace, and equality across the world. Several human-rights activists still pin the beginning of equality for all races to Nelson Mandela. 

What did he feel about reading and education?

“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.”

Nelson Mandela

“Books are the most important weapon in the struggle for human rights.”

Nelson Mandela

“A good library is an important part of any community. It is the place where knowledge can be acquired and shared, and where the love of books and reading can be ignited and nurtured.”

Nelson Mandela

These are just three of the many quotes by Nelson Mandela that articulate the importance of reading, writing, and learning. 

It is not possible to lead a life with aspirations of making an impact or changing the world, without having knowledge about it. 

Books, whether non-fiction or fiction, provide the strongest platform to do so. Literature is simply the story of people’s lives through words and sentences. Their struggles, what makes them happy, what they need, and what they believe needs to be changed, can be put forth through books. 


They raise awareness, empower people to stand up for themselves, their families, and their communities, build solidarity, and promote dialogue. And Nelson Mandela knew and believed in this.

Even throughout his many many years in prison, he continued to read about what was going on outside in the world, books about social change and justice, and even books about oppressing people of different color.

As said above, even in the most brutal conditions as a prisoner, he continued to spread awareness about the anti-apartheid movement. But how did he do this? He was only allowed a visitor once in a year for 30 minutes and could only write a letter once in 6 months!

Because of his reading and his continual and unwavering effort in educating himself through reading, he was able to stir a movement within the prison. This itself, coerced South African officials to bring a change in the living conditions of prisoners.

We can contribute to civil and social justice through books

I have said it umpteen times and I will say it again, books are the best source of knowledge. 

Authors leave pieces of themselves behind in their writings. Through their own personal stories, or through fictitious characters, every book has some amount of non-fiction in them. 

So read!

Read books/essays/articles (any other form of literature you enjoy) by authors who talk about mental and physical health struggles, who incorporate advocacy for the LGBTQ+ rights movement, who include underrepresented and minority cultures in their novels to raise awareness about the discrimination they face.

Educating yourself is the first step in making a change. 

Creating empathy for what others face, instilling determination to contribute to making a change, and supporting people who do not have the means to support themselves. Reading can help you do all. 

Nelson Mandela has been crucial to the Human Rights movement even today and he is someone who truly believed that none of it would be possible without reading and writing.

So, pick up that book, start that book club, go to the library, read articles, engage on online forums, donate books, start writing. 

Use literature to educate yourselves and those around you to make a difference for people who cannot do it themselves!

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