Rooms with a view

Driven by freedom

This week the world has said goodbye to Nelson Mandela.

I visited Robben Island in the aftermath of the Microsoft Worldwide Innovative Education Forum in Cape Town in 2010. I must say it made an impression on me. When you arrive by boat at the island you take a bus with the words Driven by Freedom at the side. Since then I take these words with me.

Many of the guides are former prisoners of Robben Island. Our guide was a student leader who had protested against the apartheid regime when he was brought to prison. We were led around in the buildings and squares where the prisoners had to do their monotonous and meaningless work: cutting a rock into small pieces. The guided tour ended at the prison cell of Nelson Mandela where he spent so many years of his life.

When visiting Robben Island I got mixed feelings. On the one hand it was very depressing to see in which conditions the prisoners had to survive… or didn’t survive. On the other hand you could also smell the spirit of freedom and hope.

Charismatic leaders like Nelson Mandela gave the prisoners a strong will to survive and to keep their dignity. Education played an important role. Each teach one. The prisoners shared their knowledge and they taught each other.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

Let’s not say goodbye to the spirit of Nelson Mandela.

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