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Desmond Tutu

Why and how should we celebrate his life?

by Becky May

Suitable for Key Stage 2


 To celebrate the life of Desmond Tutu and consider what we can learn from him. 

Preparation and materials

  • You will need images of Desmond Tutu and a map that shows where in the world South Africa is and the means to display them during the assembly.
  • Copy out the quotes in the ‘Assembly’, Step 6, each on a separate piece of paper, so that they can be passed to individual children to read out.


  1. Display the image of Desmond Tutu.

    I wonder if anyone can tell us who this is.

  2. You might have seen his face on the news, perhaps on the television or in the newspapers. This is Desmond Tutu. He has done many, many kind and caring things. He has always shown great bravery and courage in standing up for what he knew was right, even when he was the only person to do so. 

    Today, we are going to be thinking about some of the things we can learn from the way that he has lived his life.

  3. Desmond Tutu was born in South Africa at a time when people with black skin were separated from people with white skin. Black people had to go to different schools and were treated as second-class citizens – as though they weren’t as important or valued as other people. 

    One day, when Desmond was a child, he was out in the street walking with his mother when he saw a white priest called Trevor Huddleston show respect to his mother by tipping his hat to her. This was the first time that Desmond had seen a white man show respect to a black person and he realized that he could use his Christian faith to help bring equality between black and white people.

  4. When he left school, Desmond wanted to become a doctor, but his family was poor and couldn’t afford the training, so he became a teacher instead. Because of the colour of his skin, he had to teach in a school where all the children were also black. The government did not give much money to these schools, so the classes were always very big and Desmond knew that this was unfair. 

    Desmond then trained to become a priest and he did some of his training in England. Later he became a bishop and used his important role to try and help the government in South Africa understand that what it was doing wasn’t fair. He wanted to make life fairer for people who had black skin and bring peace to his country where there was lots of fighting. 

    He was awarded a very special prize – the Nobel Peace Prize – in recognition of all this hard work. The award helped to bring attention to the problems in South Africa and things began to change for the better. People with black skin were given more rights and things were made fairer. Desmond eventually became the Archbishop of Cape Town and said that his proudest moment came in 1994 when he announced that Nelson Mandela had become the first black president of South Africa.

  5. Even since retiring, Desmond Tutu has continued to work hard to bring peace and fairness to people who have found life unfair, perhaps because they were sick or poor. Those people could not speak out for themselves, but he spoke for them.

  6. Desmond Tutu has said some very wise things that we can learn from. Listen carefully to the words of these quotes and think about the things we can learn from the ideas in them. 

    Invite some volunteers to come to the front to read each of the following quotations from the pieces of paper you prepared earlier.

    In God’s family, there are no outsiders, no enemies.

    It is our moral obligation to give every child the very best education possible.

    A person is a person because he recognizes others as persons.

    How could you have a soccer team if we were all goalkeepers? How would it be an orchestra if all were French horns?

    Hate has no place in the house of God.

Time for reflection

We are going to sit silently for one minute to think about the life of Desmond Tutu and the wise and loving things that he did and said. At the end of our minute of silence, I will say a prayer.

Dear God,
Thank you for Desmond Tutu – for his kindness, wisdom, love and peace. 
Help us to learn from the things that he has said and done to bring fairness, kindness and love to other people.


‘Make me a channel of your peace’ (Come and Praise, 147) 

Publication date: January 2015   (Vol.17 No.1)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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