The UN Information Centre Library in Pretoria was a hive of activity this morning where dozens of school children from Sefako Makgatho Primary School in Attridgeville diplomats, UN partners and members of the public gathered to mark International Nelson Mandela Day.
The focus of the event was a UN donation of 60 school bags to the children, produced by a company called DeskBags which pioneered the idea of a special bag in which children can carry their books and use the hard flap-side of the bag as a lap desk. Made from recycled vinyl billboard materials, the bag flap is reinforced with ABS plastic, ensuring a hard and stable surface for children to write on, and is an innovative solution to the challenge of lack of school desks where children kneel on dusty floors, using the ground as a writing surface.
Ms. Jane Tsharane, Principal of Sefako Makgato Primary School, gave a vivid imagery into the pupils’ situations at school and back at their respective homes.
“Of course we have desks at our school; however the learning space at homes is different. The UN has given our kids a comfortable space that learners can own at their workspace when they study or do their homework. We are grateful that this particular support is aligned with our objectives; fostering learning and development in and outside the school parameters,” she said.
UNIC Director, Maureen Nkandu said that donation of the bags was just one of the various activities that the UN will be embark on throughout the year to support rural and under-privileged schools, in partnership with the Department of Education. The young boys and girls also received other school supplies including books, crayons and colour-in books.
“The UN recognizes Nelson Mandela’s values and dedication to humanity, in conflict resolution, race relations, promoting and protecting human rights, reconciliation, gender equality and the rights of children and other vulnerable groups. UN prides itself in upholding the values that late global leader Nelson Mandela stood for, therefore the decision to choose a course that aims to better the lives of children and education is fitting,” said Ms Nkandu
The event, marked by poems, statements, and a heartening performance by Zenzi Makeba, granddaughter of legendary freedom fighter and artist Miriam Makeba, as well as by the young boys and girls. It was also a move in light of UN’s steadfast commitment to promoting education as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“It is through humble beginnings that people learn resilience. If we all strive to educate ourselves our and children, we will realise change that will improve the lives of all in our country and result in a nation that is made up of responsible citizens which will lead to good economic standing. That in itself will eradicate poverty”, said Ms Hilda Kekana, Director of Tshwane South District for Department of Education. She gave words of encouragement to the children to dream high and be ambitious, emphasising that the government was working hard to ensure good quality education which would enable them to could achieve their goals.
In recognition of the former South African President’s contribution to the culture of peace and freedom, in November 2009 the UN General Assembly declared 18 July “Nelson Mandela International Day”. The day acknowledges Madiba’s contribution to the struggle for democracy internationally and the promotion of a culture of peace throughout the world.The event was sponsored by Fruit and Veg Gauteng and Sutherland Spar in Centurion.
Distributed by APO on behalf of UN Information Centre in Pretoria (UNIC).
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