Professor Mbulelo Mzamane with GFS Head of School, Dick Wade. (Photo by Michael Branscom)

by Laura Jamieson

On Tuesday, Nov. 27, students in the Lower School at Germantown Friends School had a very special visitor: South African Professor, Author and Activist Mbulelo Mzamane, described by Nelson Mandela as “a visionary leader, and one of South Africa’s greatest intellectuals.”

Invited as part of the third grade’s study of the African continent, Professor Mzamane, who speaks out against all forms of oppression and inequality, addressed post-apartheid reconstruction/reconciliation in South Africa and slavery in America.

“We have come a long way to be where we are today, but, indeed, we all know there is still quite some distance we need to go to become just one race in the world, which is the human race,” he told the students, who greeted him by singing the South African national anthem—a song that contains an amalgam of five different languages widely spoken in South Africa.

As a child in South Africa, Mzamane was not given the opportunity to be educated. When he was 11, he and his family were exiled from their homeland and he was sent away from his family and friends to attend school. 30 years later, after Mandela was elected president, Mzamane returned to his native country to take a position as a college president—a career that would never have been open to him under apartheid.

Mzamane concluded his talk with the South African proverb “umunty ngumuntu ngabantu,” which means, “A person is a person because of other people.”

“We are all people first, before we are anything else,” he reminded the students. “With that belief, we can change the world.”

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