By Neil Armstrong
Pride Contributing Writer
The University of Toronto has announced the establishment of the Nelson Mandela Scholarship, which will be awarded to fourth-year students on the basis of academic excellence, leadership and community involvement.
The university has endowed $250,000 CAN provided for two annual awards in perpetuity and to help grow the number of awards there is an opportunity for anyone interested to contribute to the scholarship.
This was revealed by Professor Meric S. Gertler, president of the university, at A Celebration of the Remarkable Life of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, former president of South Africa, at Convocation Hall at the University of Toronto on December 13.
Gertler said in the setting of the university it was worth remembering that Nelson Mandela was also a remarkable student.
Recipients of these awards, the Nelson Mandela Scholars as they will be called, must demonstrate through their studies and community involvement a commitment to promoting peace, justice, citizenship and human rights.
“This is just one fitting tribute to an extraordinary individual whose legacy has changed so many lives and made the world a better place,” Professor Gertler said.
Quoting Mandela’s statement, “Education is the most powerful weapon with which you can change the world,” the university president said, “To listen, to learn, to lead, to follow your principles wherever they may take you and in the process to teach. These are characteristics Nelson Mandela personified.”
Tselane Mokuena, consul general of the Republic of South Africa in Canada, described Canada as Mandela’s “second home.”
“Mandela was the true embodiment of truth and courage that lies within each one of us: true ability to trust and forgive our oppressors, the ability to achieve possibilities where others deemed impossible,” she said.
Mokuena said in a true demonstration of his principle of reconciliation, when as president, Mandela called the first meeting of his staff, he saw some packing boxes to leave and empty offices because of the change of government.
The consul general quoted Mandela as telling them, “If you want to leave, that is your right and if you feel in your heart you cannot work with your new government, then it is better that you do leave right away. But, if you’re packing because you fear that your language, or colour of your skin, or who you served previously, disqualifies you from working here and now, I’m here to tell you, have no such fear. What is passed is passed. We look to the future now. We need your help. If you would like to stay, you will be doing your country a great service. I ask only of you that you do your jobs to the best of your abilities and with good hearts. I promise to do the same. If we can manage that, our country will be a shining light to the world.”
She said Mandela’s spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness lives on and she sees a bright future for her young country, a country that embraces its diversity but stands firm and united through all of its challenges.
In a video tribute, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who was granted an honorary Doctor of Law by the University of Toronto in 2000, said South Africa suffered a great loss of its beloved “Tata,” the “father of our nation.”
He said Madiba “left all of us a great inheritance: a legacy of peace, of unity and of hope.”
It said that in South Africa when someone dies “we do not just weep, we also dance, we sing, we praise his life and we thank God for the gift of that person and so although we mourn Madiba’s death, we celebrate his life and we thank God for giving us so many years with him.”
Archbishop Tutu said Canada was one of the earliest supporters of Nelson Mandela’s fight against apartheid.
He said while Mandela was incarcerated on Robben Island, condemned to life imprisonment, “your support heartened him and gave him reason to hope for the liberation of his country. That is why within months of his release from prison, he chose Canada as the destination for his first overseas trip.”
The archbishop said many Canadian institutions served as blueprints when Madiba embarked on the task of building South Africa’s democracy, “so it is fitting that Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission on the impact of Indian residential schools is modeled after the commission he mandated to heal the wounds of apartheid.”
In his address to the University of Toronto convocation in 2000, Archbishop Tutu said he spoke about the South African concept of “Ubuntu” – “the essence of being human, the idea that we’re all caught up in a delicate network of interdependence. We see the power of Ubuntu in the people who are gathered here today, in other towns and cities around the world to join with the people of South Africa in mourning the loss and celebrating the life of Nelson Mandela.”
Also sharing remarks were: David C. Onley, lieutenant governor of Ontario; Premier Kathleen Wynne; Professor Dickson Eyoh, director, African Studies Program, New College, University of Toronto; Nana Yaa Boa-Amponsem, a student; and Michael Wilson, chancellor of the university.
The Nelson Mandela Park Public School choir performed the national anthems of Canada and South Africa.
There were musical tributes by veteran musicians Jackie Richardson and Joe Sealy, Jabulani and the Nathaniel Dett Chorale. The emcee was Garvia Bailey, host of Canada Live, CBC Radio-Canada.
Earlier that day, a multi-faith tribute to Mandela was held at the university by the Canadian Council of South Africans, the Mandela Legacy Committee, South African Women for Women and Zenzele Development Committee.
Photo credit: © Can Stock Photo Inc. – edan