Mandela Education


Educational Guide


Overview of Classroom Lessons

The film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, tells the inspirational story of one of the greatest leaders of our time, Nelson Mandela. From his humble beginnings in Transkei, South Africa, to his 27-year incarceration for treason and eventual release to become the first president of a fully participatory and democratic South Africa, the film provides educators with an important opportunity to help their students understand this inspirational story.

Viewer’s Guide

It is important to point out that in any dramatic film production, the story-tellers (i.e. screenwriters, directors, actors, et al.) make decisions on how best to present the story to their audience. Ask students to be aware of this and, where appropriate, identify scenes in the film that may differ from the historical facts they’ve learned and discuss why they think the story-tellers made those choices.

Mini Lessons

The educational materials for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom will use the richness of the movie with accompanying film clips and skill-building activities to provide great learning opportunities for students to engage in meaningful discussions that explore key themes of the film.

The Impact Of Apartheid

The policy of apartheid defined South Africa for many decades, just as slavery and racial segregation defined the United States. Students will gain insight into the nature of segregation and its impact in South Africa as well as the United States. Working in small groups, students will formulate dramatic presentations of South Africans exercising their rights while simultaneously violating apartheid laws. Students will analyze the stories behind these presentations in light of decades of institutional segregation in South Africa and the United States and how both nation’s racial policies shaped relationships between blacks and whites in their respective countries. Students will then summarize their findings in a report and make recommendations for change.

The Influence of Culture

Students will reflect on the importance of culture. They will research how various cultural aspects influenced the life of Nelson Mandela. They will then write a self-reflection paper on how various cultural aspects have influenced their lives.

Long Walk to Democracy

Democracy is a difficult form of government to operate. It requires vigilant citizen participation, virtuous leadership, and a commitment to transparency. Yet, democracy has evolved to become the most desired form of government in large part because of the way it honors the rights of individuals. In this lesson, students will experience in a simple way what life was like living in a minority rule democracy much like South Africa during the apartheid period. They will then work in small groups to explore key events in South Africa’s struggle for full democracy and formulate an in-depth newscast, reporting in “real time,” describing the events and explaining their impact on South Africa’s transition to democracy.

Hero or Villain

In this lesson students explore the conundrum of “one person’s freedom fighter is another person’s terrorist.” They will examine historical examples of this dilemma as it relates to South Africa’s history of apartheid. They will then conduct a cost/benefit analysis of violent and non-violent methods to address oppression and make recommendations in a role-play activity.

Lessons in Leadership

Students will participate in a series of activities on leadership, exploring the qualities of a good leader, assessing leadership qualities within themselves, and evaluating the leadership of Nelson Mandela.

Additional Resources

Lessons in Human Rights: Nelson Mandela, South Africa and the Global Community Download PDF

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