Address by President Nelson Mandela at the opening of the 12th International Council Meeting of the United World Colleges

3 November 1995

Your Majesty Queen Noor;
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen

May I first say how greatly honoured we are that the United World Colleges should choose South Africa for the opening of its Twelfth Council Meeting. In its vision, the UWC evokes the ideal of a world community and it gives substance to that ideal through its activities. Your visit to us we feel to be part of our own homecoming. We extend a warm welcome to all the delegates and hope that you will have a pleasant stay in our country.

It is a proud moment for me to succeed his Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales, as President of the International Council of the United World Colleges. His dedication over many years to the aims of the UWC is known to us all. He provoked and encouraged you to seek new ways of developing the UWC mission. He understood that developing countries have their specific needs. Under his presidency the UWC grew in stature, and he has set us a challenging act to follow.

I feel honoured to be alongside Her Majesty Queen Noor, the International President of the United World Colleges, with whom I have already shared views on the organisation on several occasions. Her enthusiasm for its aims is inspiring. You could not have recruited a finer person than Her Majesty in seeking to tackle the challenging tasks that lie ahead.

With your permission, Chairperson, I would now like to tell you why I have accepted your invitation to preside over your International Council.

Firstly, the United World Colleges established in Southern Africa a college which set an important example in non-racial education.

Secondly, my old comrade and close friend, Yusuf Cachalia, a leader of resistance to apartheid, who died recently, was Patron and one of the Trustees of the UWC in this country. From him I absorbed the admirable ideals of the UWC.

Thirdly, my own children, like those of many other friends of mine, attended the United World College of Southern Africa in Swaziland when I was in prison; and so did some of my grandchildren. I therefore know your aims and methods at first hand. I admire people like Michael Stern, the founder headmaster, and Christopher Newton Thompson, the founding chairman, who demonstrated in the worst days of apartheid, that even those who were free to enjoy privileges of the system, could instead ally themselves with the oppressed in the interest of non-racialism in Southern Africa.

But there is still more that the UWC can do.

The Waterford KaMhlaba UWC of Southern Africa should continue to pioneer the development of education in this part of the world.

More children from disadvantaged backgrounds should be given the chance of this international education. In this regard we welcome your decision to establish a Fund named after the South African President to assist the integration of gifted disadvantaged children into international life.

I have been intrigued to learn of the United World College in Venezuela, namely, the Simon Bolivar Experimental College of Agriculture and Rural Education. This College has a vast programme of activities in local communities embracing handicrafts, community leadership, education in population control, health methods, and the starting of small businesses.

The proposal to establish a South African Rural Development and Agricultural College in Association with the United World Colleges is, therefore, most encouraging. Such a project could, if it proceeds, to bring to pre-university education the kind of innovation which the United World Colleges have demonstrated elsewhere, especially in addressing the desperate needs of rural communities.

We have with us here a delegation from India, a country whose ties with our people are very long standing and of deep significance. The UWC will be opening a college there in 1997, the Mahindra United World College of India. This wonderful project will help cement th


Living in prison is a lonely business. Fortunately, during all those hard years I could count on weekly visits by the Red Cross. Hence I was delighted to learn about recent establishment of the Red Cross Nordic UWC.

United World Colleges' relationship with international groups should be nurtured and expanded. We think here, for example, of the SOS organisation, which has set up and operates over 300 Children's' Villages for orphaned and abandoned children in well over 50 countries around the world. Interaction with organisations that have goals and commitments similar to ours, enriches us all.

The striking feature of the United World Colleges is that they embrace the entire world across all divides of race, history, culture, wealth, religion, economic status and political belief. They are unique and they are conscious of their responsibilities. With the proper support, they can help make the world a better place.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

I wish you well as you discuss the affairs of the UWC and deliberate on its future.

I thank you!

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation