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Literacy Bonds Us: Rotary and the Mandela Foundation
Mandela Foundation CEO Sello Hatang, left, shares a laugh with Rotary
International Director Elect Yinka Babalola, from Nigeria, in front of a statue
of Nelson Mandela.
Literacy is one of the biggest bonds between the Nelson Mandela Foundation and Rotary, said CEO Sello Hatang.
Welcoming a delegation of local and international Rotary
visitors to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, Hatang said Rotary helped
boost the Foundation’s focus on education and communication through its own
efforts to further literacy by providing books. And literacy is an issue
particularly close to his heart.
After climbing Mount Kilimanjaro about a month ago he wanted
to let his loved ones know he was okay and on his way back. One of his messages
was to his mother. “And I was halfway through drafting it when I realised my
mother couldn’t read. You know she can’t read, she can’t write,” he said.
“So, I’m trying to make sure that with your efforts, with
your help, we can never say that so and so can’t read. People should just be
able to read and write. And hopefully some of these efforts will ensure that
you can send an SMS without thinking twice - a text should be something that’s
very natural to do.
The Foundation was also attracted to Rotary by its sense of
community, he said.
“There’s one thing that we’re failing globally, not just
South Africa, … it’s this thing of not building inclusive societies. We’re
advocating more for walls - now it’s interstate walls - instead of building
more bridges across nations.” It was
only when more bridges were built that there would be international harmony.
Hatang said this year’s Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture would
focus on how to build inclusive societies, with a special focus on gender, and
would be addressed in Cape Town by UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed,
Last year’s lecture was by Bill Gates, who spoke about polio
and the need to rid the world of the disease.
Hatang hoped that as the group of Rotarians walked through
the Centre of Memory they would gain a better appreciation of Madiba’s legacy
and get to see what he was trying to do in terms of building a different world
- a much more caring one than we have at the moment.
“The work that we are doing today is not about us today and
our children now, but it’s about those who are still to be born: That they o to
build a much more caring world,” he said.
Asked by RI Director Corneliu Dinca whether his country of
Romania was among the 10 Balkan states with which the Nelson Foundation was
presently co-operating, Hatang said it was not but that it could be included.
“What we are trying to do in those countries is to show that
not only in South Africa, but globally, whenever you’ve got a problem you think
you are unique. You think: We are the only ones who are struggling with racial
discrimination; we are the only ones who are dealing with issues of xenophobia;
we are the only ones. You hold your head and you complain about how bad things
are,” he said.
“And what we are trying to do is to show people that you are
not unique. These struggles are global. It’s about how you respond to them that
matters most and South Africa is known for how we are euphoric in our approach
to things. If things are good they are so good and if things are bad …
everything is falling apart. It’s to try to say to people that even when you
have difficulties, there’s a way out. And don’t let memory of the past continue
to detain you into the future.”
Mandela had said that when he walked out of prison he looked
back and had a choice: to be bitter about his experience or not to be bitter,
because doing so would have made him a prisoner of a different kind. “And I
think it’s to try and free countries from those shackles of the past,” said
- Reprinted with permission from Rotary Africa - October 2017
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