By Dennis Shaughnessy

Each year for the past six sum­mers, forty under­grad­uate stu­dents studying global social enter­prise at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity have had the priv­i­lege of pri­vately meeting with Nelson Mandela’s close friend and fellow Robben Island pris­oner, Dr. Ahmed Kathrada. This past year, stu­dents also met with the retired Arch­bishop Desmond Tutu, a col­league and con­fi­dant of Man­dela and fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner.

As a sign of rev­er­ence in South Africa, Man­dela is called Madiba, in ref­er­ence to his clan name. Dr. Kathrada has taken our stu­dents each year to visit Madiba’s prison cell. In the infa­mous prison that housed so many of today’s anti-​​apartheid lead­er­ship of South Africa, he talked of Mandela’s dream of a moral, just and non-​​discriminatory society for all of South Africa. Arch­bishop Tutu also shared the view he shared with Man­dela for the need for for­give­ness and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with the apartheid ene­mies of freedom and equality. Only with for­give­ness, Tutu advised, can people live peace­fully together in pur­suit of a better and more just society.

We work side-​​by-​​side with col­lege stu­dents enrolled in a unique “free” uni­ver­sity for poor black and coloured stu­dents. Our stu­dents study along­side South African peer stu­dents who have suf­fered from deep poverty and the iso­la­tion and suf­fering that it brings to young people in one of the world’s most unequal coun­tries. The rela­tion­ships built between NU stu­dents and their new South Africa friends are often the high­light of their time at our university.

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