RIP Nelson Mandela

What can Teachers learn from Nelson Mandela to make a difference?

eLearning Trends

We teach language to help people communicate. Why do people want to communicate?

​To express the human story through myth, inspiration and powerful transformation.

​Let’s dig deeper into the story of Nelson Mandela and help our students think, communicate and become active narrators in the search for peace and what makes us human.

What can we teach students about Nelson Mandela through the power of video and multi-media?

Let’s dig a little deeper to find out;)

1) The Video:

I chose this BBC video as a modern day look at Mandela’s legacy beyond South Africa. We also learn something about the struggle for black rights in Britain.

Then we ask questions and dig a lot deeper.

Beyond politics, what other dark forces in our human nature perpetuate the kinds of violence and prejudice that can seem to be so innate in humanity as to be chilling to the core.

When we stare into the black hole of violence and face the shadow side of life, how do we remain optimistic, inspired and willing to risk all for the common good?

How do we avoid lip service to ideals or avoid reducing heroic legacies to annual memorials that are forgotten when tomorrow’s story blasts through our news feeds?

There is great power in this testimony to Mandela’s life beyond the shadow side – that’s what we need to glimpse, feel and understand.

Our better natures.

Where are they when we need them?

2) Watch, think, and dig deeper.

This is a lesson for us all, and a lesson plan for our students.

3) WHO is Nelson Mandela?

Image credit: Paul Don Smith

I love the fact that Bob Geldof is featured in this documentary as it was Geldof who initiated the Band Aid – Feed The World – music campaign in 1984. He talks about Mandela – the private person.

According to  Louiso,  (a famous black south African musician featured in the documentary below), Nelson Mandela was a mythological hero who would one day come out of prison and save everybody. This is who he became to the black kids on the streets of South Africa who were subjected to daily harassment from the white police.

And…as we know…..this hero was locked up for 27 years …. real life mirroring the mythological narrative of near-annihalation before the powerful comeback.

There is a very disturbing and compelling comment in the video (20:16 minutes), where Lousio talks about what he wanted to be when he grew up. His answer is a Pandora’s box of paradox, irony and the psychological traps deeply buried in our evolutionary nature as human beings.

Here is a video about Nelson Mandela’s legacy which I created a lesson plan from using TEDed lesson creation tools. To access the lesson, click on this link:

Who is Nelson Mandela TEDed lesson.

For those of you who can’t go through this TED ed lesson completely,  my last ‘dig deeper’ and discussion challenges were these:

4) Dig deeper:

Why do you think young black boys would think that freedom meant growing up to become white?

Why is this disturbing?

Can you think of any current issues beyond Apartheid and racism where equally disturbing misconceptions about freedom remain – such as in gender issues and women’s rights around the world and where you live yourself?

5) Discussion title:

The key to overcoming violence in our societies is to create schools based on principles of creative freedom in learning and creativity in sharing.



This is a challenge to question the status quo and envision the kind of education you would really like to be a part of.

Societies are changed by the hand that rocks the cradle and the absence or presence of a freedom-loving creative community that spreads positive impact.

My final words here today are that technology and the internet are our new invincible tools for making a difference.

Let’s use them wisely.

How can they be used and how can they be abused?

That is the ultimate question – a question infinitely more productive than the blind answers produced by day-to -day reliance upon state controlled multi-media channels.

For me, what we really need to learn is not to point fingers or be complacent about our own societies beyond South Africa, where we were ‘relatively‘ free from systems such as Apartheid. There are also ‘ invisible‘ systems of corruption on our own doorsteps.

Finally, I think that Mandela would have been be pleased for us to  use this day to recognise that this is really beyond Nelson Mandela himself, anyway.

He’s a symbol of hope – one way or another, but the real question and really scary part is when we start digging into our own human nature – and realise that there is no external enemy- we are all culpable – those of us who point fingers will be the first to perpetuate our own atrocities great & small – in society, in the home, or even in ourselves!!

…and, yet again…

“There are no small atrocities – there is no such thing.”

Will Murfitt –

Comment on Teaching English/British Council page.

Sometimes the ‘small’ atrocities are really the biggest.

Take a look around and dig deeper – that’s something we can learn to do and teach our students to do.

Finally, don’t forget to watch the video, do the quiz and use this as a resource beyond today.

Sylvia Guinan

is an online English teacher, writer and blogger who facilitates professional development online. She uses brain-friendly techniques to help students and teachers around the world. She designs educational materials, develops courses, writes resource papers and publishes ebooks. Her work is the result of much research into the psychology of learning, as well as hands-on experience with multi-media technology.

2 thoughts on “What can Teachers learn from Nelson Mandela to make a difference?

  1. Hi Torn,

    The initial question was a lead in to Mandela’s story – kind of rhetorical – which I answered in my own way –

    “To express the human story through myth, inspiration and powerful transformation.”

    Learning, expressing, changing, growing – socially and intra-personally – so to speak.

    I suppose that would be a great Q to ask separately and deal with on its own too.

    As for the rest, please get back into shorts and write at least one paragraph here about digging deeper and then maybe you could write a very deep one on your own blog?

  2. There is an awful lot of digging here.

    You ask a question at the beginning: Why do people want to communicate? The rest of the post raises a very different question: Why don’t people want to dig deep?

    At the end, you suggest a writing activity looking at the kind of schooling that would advance the cause of peace. If we were back in shorts at the classroom desk, we would write a few hundred words about the need for a form of schooling that would inspire every child to become a lifelong digger.

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