On the 11th February 1990, Nelson Mandela was released after spending twenty seven years in prison. I will never forget that magical sunny afternoon when our ‘hero’, walked out of prison. As he walked out of prison that day, for the first time in my life I started to feel proud to be South African. I couldn’t help thinking of the millions of South Africans including my good friend Ashley Kriel, who had lost their lives in pursuit of freedom. The moment Nelson Mandela walked out of prison, it felt like all sixty million (South Africans) had also walked out of prison. The day had finally dawned when all South Africans would have an equal opportunity to walk the road to freedom together. Amidst all the excitement of that magical day, echoes of Martin Luther King’s speech on the 28 August 1963 rang in my ears, ‘Free at Last! Free at Last!, Thank God Almighty we are Free at Last!
The simple act of one man’s release from prison had the impact of uniting a nation divided by decades of discrimination and the opportunity to embrace hope, forgiveness, peace and democracy.
On Wednesday, 11th February 25 years to the day, I got to spend the day with students, staff and parents at Hayling College. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that one day I would be sharing our story with a group of strangers. Just like that amazing day in February twenty five years ago, my day was made special by the very positive attitude and enthusiasm displayed by the amazing students at Hayling College. While recounting tales of my personal journey to freedom , I had to keep reminding myself that ‘I am truly free’.
My visit to Hayling College will be forever etched in my memory and I must admit to being overwhelmed by the very positive comments and questions from students. I find it incredible that despite visiting Hayling College, a couple of weeks ago, the questions and comments keep coming from these Awesome students. In many ways the teachings and lessons that I learned from Nelson Mandela has afforded me the opportunity to ‘connect’ with these enthusiastic teenagers who are simply responding to a message of hope.
One of the most important lessons that I have learned which I believe we could all embrace, is that ‘our freedom is so valuable and should never be taken for granted’. Freedom and Liberty are so relevant to us even today, given the daily erosion of this basic right for millions all over the world.
Thank you to all the students, staff and parents at Hayling College for the time we spent together.