Mandela and me: how our chance encounter influenced my research
Topic : Education News
With the death of Nelson Mandela – Madiba to South Africans – I’ve wondered if a chance encounter with him almost 20 years ago wasn’t in some way responsible for my academic career and research interest.
I bumped into him soon after he’d been freed from prison. I’d emigrated, disillusioned when South Africa‘s then prime minister , PW Botha, vowed never to let “that terrorist” out of jail. The infamous referendum in which the majority of the (white) electorate effectively voted not to change the apartheid status quo, was the last straw. Unlike Madiba, I gave up hope and moved to the UK.
It may seem strange, but like most South Africans who grew up under the apartheid regime, I only became aware of Madiba’s significance once I’d left the country. Despite growing up in South Africa, I was too young to follow the Rivonia treason trial. By the time I was reading newspapers, all mention of him and the ANC, was banned. The government ensured that he and his comrades were expunged from history books in the segregated school system. Black South African friends remember that the occasional brave teacher whispered his name in their overcrowded classrooms; I was kept ignorant.