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Long Walk To Freedom

Reflects on the life and achievement of Nelson Mandela

by Alan Barker

Suitable for Key Stage 2


To celebrate the life and achievement of Nelson Mandela.

Preparation and materials

  • Suitable images (with copyright permission) might be downloaded from the internet and used to support this assembly..
  • Suitable quotes might be used in a PowerPoint presentation to provide material for reflection.
  • The song ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ could be played as the school assembles
  • Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika’ (‘Lord Bless Africa’) to conclude.


  1.  Invite the school community to reflect upon a goal that they have recently achieved – and one that is yet to be attained. How long might it take to reach that goal? Days? Weeks? Years? A lifetime??

  2. Relate this to Nelson Mandela. In 1994, he became the first black president of South Africa. The country had held its first multi-racial election – meaning one in which everyone had been able to take part. It was a goal achieved only after years of struggle and life-long commitment.

  3. As a young man, Nelson Mandela joined the ANC – the African National Congress – a movement that was trying to bring about change in South Africa. He qualified and worked as a lawyer.

  4. Together with others, Nelson Mandela campaigned against apartheid. Apartheid was a very unjust system that kept people of different race apart. Those who were black or mixed race had no choice but to use separate schools, medical facilities, even park benches and beaches. These were often poorer than those for white people. Pass Laws determined where black people were allowed to live and work. People who protested were killed. Violence grew.

  5. In 1963, Nelson Mandela and other leaders of the ANC were arrested and tried for plotting to overthrow the government. Mandela was imprisoned for life. His tiny cell in the prison on Robben Island had just a thin straw mattress on the floor. The food was poor and he was forced to do hard labour.

  6. Nelson Mandela remained a prisoner for 27 years before being freed. People across the world urged that he should be released. They sang the song ‘Free Nelson Mandela’. The song was not just about Mandela’s freedom but the freedom of the whole country. When he was eventually released, people celebrated a new freedom for everyone.

    After his release, Nelson Mandela spoke of his feelings: ‘As I walked . . . toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison.’

  7. In 1994, when Nelson Mandela became President of South Africa, he wrote about his experiences. His book is entitled Long Walk to Freedom. It tells of his hard struggle to realize the goal of freedom – a struggle that had lasted for over fifty years!

  8. Reflect that Nelson Mandela’s courage and commitment have been an inspiration to many other people. He didn’t give up but held true to his beliefs. As President he pledged himself to work for all the people of South Africa. 

Time for reflection

Invite the school community to reflect upon their goals in the light of some words of Nelson Mandela:

‘To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.’

Or use this prayer: 

Lord God,
Today we remember and thank you
for all who struggle and suffer
for justice and freedom
and for those who inspire and help us
to realize our goals.


Song and music

Play the South African national anthem: ‘Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika’.

Publication date: December 2013   (Vol.15 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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