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Nelson Mandela dies aged 95: Today's news, tomorrow's lesson

Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first black leader and the man who came to symbolise the struggle against apartheid, has died aged 95. 

The announcement of Mandela's death was made by current South African president Jacob Zuma, who called the day "the moment of our deepest sorrow".

"Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father. But though we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of the profound and enduring loss," Mr Zuma said. "His tireless struggle for freedom had him the respect of the world. His humility, his compassion and his humanity lend him their love."

Mandela was born in 1918 in South Africa and attended a Methodist school before going to Fort Hare University. He was expelled from the university for his political activism, but continued to protest and work against apartheid, which was a system of racial segregation that saw the black population of South Africa denied many of their rights. 

His continued participation in action against apartheid led to him being incarcerated for 27 years between 1962 and 1990. He spent many of those years on Robben Island, where many other leaders of the anti-apartheid movement were also held.

After being released from prison, Mandela became leader of the African National Congress Party and worked with President FW de Klerk to abolish apartheid. This led to both Mandela and de Klerk receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and, more importantly for South Africa, it led to the country's first multiracial elections. In April 1994, Mandela was elected president of South Africa, becoming its first black leader in the process.

He served one term before retiring in 1999. In his retirement, Mandela dedicated his time to further activism, most notably in the fight against the spread of HIV and Aids. 

In recent years, Mandela's health had deteriorated; he had suffered from lung problems since contracting tuberculosis in prison. 

World leaders have been paying tribute to Mandela's life and legacy. UK Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted that "a great light has gone out in the world".

US President Barack Obama, who made history as the first black leader of the US, said that he could not imagine his own life "without the example that Nelson Mandela set".

He added: "Nelson Mandela lived for that ideal, and he made it real. He achieved more than could be expected of any man. And today he's gone home. He no longer belongs to us, he belongs to the ages."

South African Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, who led the Truth and Reconciliation Commission post-apartheid, released a statement sending condolences to Mandela's family and paying tribute to "the father of our nation".

However, Archbishop Tutu also addressed the void that Mandela leaves behind in leadership, culture and race relations. 

"The spirit of greatness that he personified resides in all of us," he said. "Human beings are made for greatness. Nelson Mandela embodied and reflected our collective greatness. He embodied our hopes and our dreams. He symbolised our enormous potential, potential that has not always been fulfilled."







- Nelson Mandela was an activist in South Africa. Why do you think his story resonates with so many people worldwide?
- Nelson Mandela was a proponent of non-violent protests. What is a non-violent protest? What forms do you think a non-violent protest could take?
- Do you think racial discrimination still exists in today's society? Justify your answer using examples.
  • This lesson provides some background information on Nelson Mandela and explores moral questions about apartheid, fighting for freedom and what constitutes terrorism.

Nelson Mandela: Biography and autobiography

  • Explore the life of Nelson Mandela and the differences between biography and autobiography with these materials from Oxfam.


  • 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.

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