Honoring the centennial of Nelson Mandela’s birth on July 18, the South African SinomusaNothando Community Development organization, now based in New York city, hosted a dialogue at the Metropolitan College of New York to explore the lessons learned from Mandela’s life and work, and how to apply those lessons today.
As the guest speaker, Dr. Ayman El-Mohandes, dean of the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy (CUNY SPH), recounted his experience introducing a Master’s in Public Health program at Medunsa University in Pretoria, South Africa in 1997. Dr. El-Mohandes noted that in the course of implementing the public health program, he realized there was a remarkable hunger for education in South Africa, and that thirst for knowledge didn’t match the dismal transcripts that he was receiving from applicants to the program. Despite an eagerness to learn, the consistently low academic scores among certain student groups alluded to the widespread, systemic racism in South Africa.
Dr. El-Mohandes emphasized the need to continue investing in education for the benefit of all. “The strongest weapon against injustice is education,” said Dr. El-Mohandes, echoing the social justice mindset of Mandela’s life’s work.