Address by President Nelson Mandela during visit to Harvey Cohen School for the Mentally Handicapped, Eldorado Park

13 April 1999

Mr Braam,
Mrs Cornelius,
Ladies and gentlemen,

And most importantly the children here with us today.

Every child is a gift given to us by God. A child is a gift so valuable that we should cherish each and every one and help them develop, so that they grow into active, well adjusted and happy adults.

The Society For The Mentally Handicapped has over the past thirty years made a very important contribution to our society. It could not have been an easy task to develop a curriculum for the mentally challenged child.

During the reign of a government that did not regard all children as of equal value. The men and women who pioneered this school were truly heroic, and for this our society owes them a great deal.

Our new democratic constitution guarantees the rights of each and every individual. For the first time ever the rights of the disabled have been guaranteed by the law. New laws prohibit discrimination in the workplace. This makes the work of places such as the Harvey Cohen Centre even more important than before. We must try to provide every person in our society with the training that will enable them to contribute to society to their full potential.

The rights and dignity of each person in our society, and especially those who cannot speak for themselves, must be protected with zeal by those us who can.

It is a great honour for me to be able to make this small contribution to the Harvey Cohen School. I know that it costs R900 000 per year to run the school, and I hope that we can encourage other business people to make contributions to keep this centre alive.

Today all of our children can grow together, no longer separated by the walls of apartheid. Together let us ensure that we build on these advances.

The Harvey Cohen Centre is a shining example of the power that lies within our communities to develop organisations that directly benefit all. The struggle for a better future for all requires not just material transformation, but also changes in the way we think and the way we relate to each other - that is what we mean when we speak of an RDP of the Soul.

These young people whom this school serves, need all of us to become active partners in shaping their futures. In helping children from many different cultural backgrounds, the school is part the effort of the people of South Africa to develop as a single and united nation, and to overcome the legacy of apartheid.

I salute you all, I say to all of you young people here today: I love each one of you, and I believe that each one of you is a valuable asset to our society.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website