Address by Nelson Mandela at opening of the Nelson Mandela Lecture Theatre, Oxford - United Kingdom

April 2002

Oxford is one of the most famous universities in the world, possibly the most famous. To have a theatre at such a famous institution named after one is certainly an unsurpassed honour.

Education had always been dear to my heart. The emancipation of people from poverty and deprivation is most centrally linked to the provision of education of quality.

While the poor and suffering masses of our people bore the weight of our liberation struggle, we acknowledge that we would not have advanced in the manner we did if it was not for the education that so many of our leaders and cadres obtained. We recognised that emancipation from illiteracy and ignorance was an important part of our liberation struggle, and that education was key to that.

It was for that same reason, for example, that one of the first things we set out to do when we were incarcerated on Robben Island prison, was to prepare for the education and further education of ourselves as inmates. Many political prisoners learnt to read and write for the first time on Robben Island. Many obtained degrees and further degrees on the Island. And the informal education through reading and discussion was probably the most significant part of our stay in that prison.

One of the cruellest ways in which the apartheid system hit at our people was through the deliberate undermining of the quality of public education and the destruction of non-state education through, for example, the churches that sought to provide quality education. Today as we seek to reconstruct and develop our country we have to battle that legacy of inferior education deliberately provided to the masses of our people.

We place education and training at the centre of the developmental policies of our democratic government. We realise that without a broad corps of educated, highly skilled and well-trained people we cannot become the winning nation we wish to be in order to provide better lives for all our people.

It is from that background which rates education as one of the highest priorities in human society, that I am so touched to be associated with this most famous of educational institutions in this manner. And I thank you for the honour.

To be associated specifically with the Said Business School at Oxford University adds to that honour.

Mr Wafic Said, the key figure behind the Business School, has long been involved in education and with Oxford University.

I have learnt how he, through his Foundation, has over the last twenty years helped thousands of disadvantaged children and young people, creating a bridge between Britain and the Middle East. In this he has focussed on the two areas that he regards as of paramount importance, namely education and health.

Both in the areas of focus and in his concern to build bridges we deeply associate ourselves with him. After our retirement from the office of President we established the Nelson Mandela Foundation, and three of its key areas of operation are in fact education, health, and peace and reconciliation. We are therefore doubly proud to have our name associated with the Said Business School.

We understand that the Said Business School aspires to be the leading research-based business school in Europe. Its positioning within Oxford University puts the realisation of that aspiration entirely within its reach.

Business schools are places uniquely placed to bring together academic research and the practice of the world of business, work, enterpreneurship and development. Their work can have a particularly decisive impact on policy-making and on how business affects the broader life of society.

I further understand, and am very happy to learn, that the School intends to develop a particular expertise in issues relating to the process of globalisation.

Speaking as one from the developing world and particularly from the continent of Africa, I cannot emphasise enough the importance of such research into the processes of globalisation. Globalisation is an inescapable part of our modern world and it brings with it tremendous advantages.

It opens up markets across traditional boundaries with the effect that commodities can come to people at more affordable prices. It connects us in unprecedented manner from all corners of the planet. It makes for the transfer of technologies, skills and information to the potential benefit of all.

The downside of globalisation is that it clearly benefits the wealthy and the powerful of the world much more than the poor and the marginalised.

It is through careful study and in-depth understanding of all of the processes of globalisation that we can contribute to eliminating the inequalities of outcome of those processes.

We are confident that the Said School of Business can and will contribute to that understanding. Its access to the high quality work of other disciplines in the University as well as its own international make-up eminently equip it for that task.

We look forward to seeing the research of the Said Business School making an impact for the better on the practices of business and on the international debate about globalisation.

I am proud to be associated with this initiative.

And I thank you.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation