Nelson Mandela’s life and legacy to be marked on Mandela Day - Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 15 July

On Thursday, Nelson Mandela will turn 95, but the man celebrated as the central figure in the fight to end apartheid in South Africa remains in hospital in a critical condition.

Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 15 July

Nelson Mandela’s life and legacy to be marked on Mandela Day

On Thursday, Nelson Mandela will turn 95, but the man celebrated as the central figure in the fight to end apartheid in South Africa remains in hospital in a critical condition.

His birthday is now known as Mandela Day: an annual call for action to spend 67 minutes volunteering for charities or your community in honour of Mr Mandela’s 67 years of fighting for human rights.

Born into the Xhosa people in 1918, Mr Mandela grew up in a country that denied non-white people the vote and restricted their freedom of movement in order to preserve segregation.

By the time Mr Mandela left university in 1948, the ruling National Party was instituting an even more strict system of racial segregation known as apartheid.

Each person was formally assigned a racial group: white, black, coloured (mixed race) or Indian. Further laws restricted mixed-race settlements and allocated racial groups to designated areas, banned mixed marriages and sex between different races, and segregated beaches, buses, hospitals, schools and universities.

Mr Mandela became involved in politics in 1942, when he helped to found the youth league of the African National Congress, which defended the rights of black South Africans, rising through the ranks and being arrested several times.

In 1962, he took up the leadership of ANC’s armed struggle, forming Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation). Following a massacre of 69 people by police firing on protestors, the ANC had decided it needed a military response.

In October 1963, he stood trial accused of sabotage with nine others. Facing the death penalty, he told the court: “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.

“It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Sentenced to life imprisonment at Robben Island, he became a world famous icon of political resistance, inspiring boycotts and eventually, in the late 1980s, sanctions by the US, UK and 23 other countries.

In 1989, a new leader of the National Party, F.W. de Klerk, believed apartheid was unsustainable. He freed ANC prisoners, with Mr Mandela the last to leave prison in 1990. That paved the way for apartheid to be dismantled, and Mr Mandela’s election as the first black South African president in 1994.

In recent months, headlines in South Africa – and to a slightly lesser degree around the word – have been dominated by his health as he has been in and out of hospital with life-threatening infections.

He is currently hospitalised – he is said to be conscious but unable to speak as he battles a lung infection that saw him admitted on 8 June. President Jacob Zuma urged people to keep “providing support and showering him with love”.


  • Have you ever tried volunteering? What was the experience like?
  • How could you find out about volunteering opportunities in our community?
  • What is segregation? Can you think of any other examples from history of this system being used?
  • How far do you think that racism is still a problem today? Give examples to explain your answer.

Related resources

Nelson Mandela

  • This lesson provides some background information on Nelson Mandela and explores moral questions about apartheid, fighting for freedom, and what constitutes terrorism.

The life of Nelson Mandela

  • Introduce students to the life of Nelson Mandela in Spanish based on the film Goodbye Bafana.


  • Examine the system of apartheid through a class role play activity from TES Connect partner Hamilton Trust.


  • An assembly script on the theme of hope with lessons from Nelson Mandela.

Further news resources

First News front page

  • Help your pupils understand the features of the front page of a newspaper.

Write all about it

  • Get students creating their own news report with this step-by-step guide.

What is the News?

  • A sociological and media perspective on what makes an event 'newsworthy'.

On the box

  • Help pupils to write their own TV news broadcast with this handy PowerPoint.

Structuring stories

  • A scheme of work to help students structure news stories.

In the news this week

It would seem to be the stuff both of nightmares and Hollywood teen movies - archaeologists in Poland think they may have unearthed a vampire grave that could be up to 500 years old.

Six Greenpeace activists have caught the attention of Londoners, attempting to scale Europe's tallest building, The Shard, in protest against oil and gas drilling in the Arctic.

They have become a depressing but almost permanent fixture of social networking sites, bent on causing hurt and distress to other users seemingly for no reason. They are internet "trolls".

As, no doubt, you'll have noticed, he's done it. Andy Murray has won Wimbledon.

In the news archive index