Nelson Mandela and Education

KimJonesimageBy Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki

The world is mourning the passing of Nelson Mandela. Cosmologist Neil Turok, whose family is from South Africa, wrote this interesting tribute for a major Canadian newspaper –

Quoting: ”But for me, Mr. Mandela’s greatest legacy won’t be his strength of character, or his capacity for forgiveness, or his towering intellect, or his passion for our homeland. What was most striking about him was his passion for education. He said, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’ ”

Neil Turok’s parents fought against the apartheid system in South Africa and went into exile from South Africa to the U.K. Neil became a cosmologist (astrophysicist focused on the properties and evolution of the universe at large) and is now based in Canada. He is also a founder of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) and its Next Einstein Initiative, whose goal is to build 15 centers across the continent during the next 8 years. Their mission “is to enable Africa’s brightest students to flourish as independent thinkers, problem solvers and innovators capable of propelling Africa’s future scientific, educational and economic self-sufficiency.”

Dr. Turok notes: “Mr. Mandela foresaw the potential of Africa’s children: ‘It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation.’ ” Or maybe a cosmologist or the next Einstein.

Curriki shares the same belief in education as the means to change the world, and to allow everyone to fulfill their potential. This is why we are providing Open Education Resources freely to anyone with an Internet connection – which increasingly means anyone in the world. In Africa, Internet penetration lags the rest of the world. It stands at 16% as of the end of 2012, but is also very rapidly growing.

As one example of OER on Curriki, we have Free High School Science Texts from the FHSST project begun in South Africa, and available here:

The project that created these was initiated by Mark Horner, a University of Cape Town (South Africa) post-graduate physics student, and it has since grown to a much larger group of contributors including students, lecturers and people in industry. It now brings together scientists from around the world who are willing to contribute, for free, to the writing of the books.

FHSST believes that science education is about more than learning subjects like physics, chemistry and mathematics. It is about learning to think and to solve problems. These are valuable skills that can be applied through all spheres of life. Teaching these skills to young people will equip them to make a positive contribution to their future and the future of the rest of the world.

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