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Mandela's story

manual labor to college president

mandela for web.jpg

Hauling bricks, mixing cement, bringing water to the work site. Nelson Mandela labored doing all these things while helping build the school where he would eventually study. Between primary and secondary school, Mandela had to make money for his family, so that his mom and younger brothers had a place to live.  His father had chased them all away when he remarried a younger woman. Then, while working on the school, Mandela met a man who would sponsor his secondary education. Three years later Mandela managed to graduate from Mwere Vision Secondary School. 


It would be great if that was the hardest part of Mandela’s life. Unfortunately, that is not where the challenges ended. After secondary school, Mandela didn’t have the funds to go on to college. He had the grades, but not the money, so he went back to work. He continued to work to support his family, housing one younger brother and helping another one through secondary school. On top of all this, he contributed to his mother’s many medical bills.  A lifetime of restaurant cooking and inhaling the smoke from charcoal cooking fires had finally taken its toll. Mandela worked for years, but continually found his lack of education to be holding him back.


After several years of not seeming to make it anywhere, Mandela finally received another break. He heard about Wesley College, a college started by the United Methodist Church in Mwanza. It was the same United Methodist Church where he and his brother were baptized. Not only was he able to attend Wesley College, but he received a full scholarship which covered his tuition.


Mandela is now studying Community Development and learning the skills needed to help transform the lives of others in his community. He hopes that other youth and young adults will not have to endure the same challenges that he did -- just to grow up, get an education, and have a chance at life.


In fall 2019, Mandela participated in his first field placement – an opportunity for experiential, hands-on training, which is a cornerstone of Wesley College’s mission. Placed at a government development office, Mandela had opportunity to participate in many facets of his chosen career. He facilitated savings and loans groups, counseled youth about the hazards of truancy, and helped deliver sanitation training for restaurant cooks.


What did he think was most important? 


“While in the field we had a chance to teach a women’s group about their rights, specifically about their rights to own land. It was a blessing to be able to empower the women to stand up for themselves and see that they, too, had something to contribute to the family, and help them understand how to claim their rights for themselves.”

All this from a young man who – not many years ago – was supporting his family by hauling bricks, mixing cement, and carrying water to a construction site. Now he is our Student Body President.

Read about Mandela's fall 2020 field placement.

Read more student stories.

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