Were he still alive Nelson Mandela would have turned 100 years this July 2018. To celebrate his centenary, Fred Swaniker, the founder of the African leadership group, confirmed that the African Leadership University (ALU) had partnered with the Graça Machel Trust and the Mandela Institute of Development Studies (MINDS) to launch the Mandela Centennial Scholarship Programme, a landmark scholarship that will celebrate the 100th birthday of one of the greatest African leaders of the last century.
100 outstanding young Africans
The announcement noted that “President Mandela firmly believed in the transformative power of education and its ability to bring dignity, self-actualization, and prosperity to Africans. Throughout his presidency and after, he dedicated much of his efforts to ensure that children from all walks of life had equal access to education, regardless of their economic background.”
The objective of the Mandela Centennial Scholars Programme is to honor President Mandela’s legacy and continue the important work he began in education by identifying 100 outstanding young Africans from disadvantaged backgrounds to attend ALU. These students – selected as future role models – will benefit from a scholarship offering bold opportunities for leadership development.
Four leadership lessons from Nelson Mandela
Swaniker cited four powerful lessons from how Nelson Mandela led the Apartheid struggle. He said, One, “It only takes a few great leaders to change the world. While Nelson Mandela was certainly not the only hero of the Apartheid era, he was part of a very small group of people—O.R. Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Steve Biko, Helen Suzman and others—who served as the ‘spark’ to bring the entire Apartheid system down. I remember thinking at the time ‘if only Africa could create a few more Nelson Mandelas’. This lesson inspired me to start the African Leadership Academy & African Leadership University almost 2 decades later.”
[In that vein, Swaniker was enthused by the American cultural anthropologist, Margaret Mead (1901-1978) who said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”.]
Two, “Leadership requires perseverance: Nelson Mandela showed me that driving real change is long and hard. It requires resilience and perseverance against many obstacles that come in your way. I’ve learned that simply not giving up is one of the most critical ingredients for success as a leader or entrepreneur.”
Three, “The power of forgiveness: Most people would have been angry, bitter, and seeking revenge after 27 years in jail. But Nelson Mandela immediately forgave his white oppressors, believing that retaliation and anger would keep him mentally ‘imprisoned’ by his former oppressors. To be a great leader, you need to learn how to forgive people. You will be surprised at how quickly forgiveness frees your mind to focus on your real purpose.”
Four, “The power of education: Mandela understood that the true wealth of a nation lies in the brains of its people, not in things like mineral resources. As he famously said: ‘Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.’ I couldn’t agree more. It’s what inspires me every day to bring innovative, world-class education to Africa through ALA & ALU.”
African Leadership University, Rwanda
The selected scholars will receive a full scholarship to attend African Leadership University in Rwanda from September 2018 onwards. They will also receive a copy of Nelson Mandela’s autobiography: “Long Walk to Freedom” and will be invited for a special leadership seminar with Mama Graca and other great African leaders in Kigali before they start classes this September.
The preferred candidates must be courageous, ethical, and innovative young people of university-going age who are also top performers academically. The idea is to make the selection as pan-African as possible and gender balanced, so 50% of the scholarships will go to young women. The application form can be found at: https://bit.ly/2BG4vXp
This is a challenge for Africa’s youth to take the time to learn more about what Nelson Mandela stood for, and see how they can apply his leadership lessons to one’s own life. Now, more than ever, the world needs us to remember what good leadership looks like.
For questions about the Mandela Centennial Scholarship Programme, visit: mcs.alueducation.com or Email: [email protected]