Nelson Mandela Mandela and Winnie’s studies

Introduction

Nelson Mandela has a commitment to education. Both Mandelas have continued to study and to write exams throughout their imprisonment. When there was nothing to do, there were studies. In prison Nelson read everything he could lay his hands on. Political prisoners were initially denied all news but snatched bits surreptitiously, through newspapers left carelessly by warders. After years of protest they graduated to a restricted number of papers and to the radio, and eventually to TV.

Mandela developed an interest in archaeology, mythology, philosophy and religion, and has a deep interest in social and cultural forms. He studied law and economics through UNISA and London Law Correspondence College.

In the following letters he discusses his and Winnie's studies:

My college work keeps me busy. I'm required to score 200 marks to be able to write the Business Economics exam at the end of the year. I've got up to date 142 marks through five assignments. Now I am struggling for 58 marks.

I feel guilty that I pursue my studies with ease while you carry heavy load on your shoulders.

Dear Girl! At last you're back at UNISA. What are your subjects and do you remember you were at the same varsity when we met eighteen years ago? I hope you'll enjoy the course. But remember that I expect you to live up to the high standard I know you're capable of. But it really shook me to learn that in the evenings you drive to the public library. How can you take such risk? Have you forgotten that you live in Soweto, not in the centre of town where you'd be safe at night. For the last decade you have been the subject of cowardly attempts on your life in which they tried to drag you out of the house. Your life and that of the children is more important than any educational certificate!

15 April 1976

It will be a terrible setback if the registrar's ruling in regard to your degree in social science while in the Free State prevails. You have a strong case for exemption since you hold a diploma in social science which is recognized by provincial municipalities and many welfare organizations and industry. You could refer him to the various kinds of social work you have done since you qualified in 1955 at Baragwanath and the Child Welfare Society.

1 July 1979

About your study problems, I must tell you that I feel disappointed and even disgusted, for I know that social work is second nature to you. To get your degree would be such a compensation for the rough and raw deals that you have experienced during the last twenty-two years.

1 June 1980

The prisons department has announced that studies are being restored, including post-graduate studies. Prisoners may begin their respective courses individually. But at present I have no information as to whether Legal Studies with London University will be allowed ... If I am allowed to proceed with the final, I will tackle Jurisprudence, International Law, African Law and Mercantile Law or Family Law. My only fear is that the books will be prohibitively expensive. I will probably enroll for lectures with Wolseley or Cambridge and subscribe to the Law Quarterly Review and the Modern Law Review. To get all this I will require no less than R350. If refused, I will continue B. Com. with UNISA.

1 June 1980


References:
• The textual commentary and letters are drawn from Meer, F. (1988). Higher than Hope , London: Hamish Hamilton, pp. 333-412, and is used with the kind permission of the author.