Search for courses or information

General news

UEL graduates and academics 'walk together' to mark Nelson Mandela centenary 

South African Deputy High Commissioner joins UEL walk before start of summer graduation ceremonies

Graduating students from the University of East London (UEL) were joined by the Deputy High Commissioner of South Africa to the UK, Golden Neswiswi, on a mile-long walk to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Nelson Mandela on 18 July. 

Ahead of their graduation ceremony at ExCeL London, students and academics wore their academic gowns as they walked the ‘Mandela Mile’ on Royal Victoria Dock along with hundreds of family members, friends and UEL staff members.

Mr Neswiswi was among the crowd who walked behind a ‘#WalkTogether’ banner as part of the global celebrations of Mandela’s centenary.

Similar walks were held across the world to commemorate the former South Africa President’s own ‘walk to freedom’ when he was released from jail in 1990.

Mr Neswiswi said, “It is an honour to have been invited by UEL to this event today, and is a reminder of the relationship between the people of the UK and South Africa, and a joint re-commitment to creating a better life for all.

“This is a symbolic walk, joined with many other Mandela Mile walks and events around the world. It’s a recommitment to the values that Nelson Mandela held dear, such as reconciliation, the alleviation of poverty and human rights.”

Nelson Mandela was born on 18 July 1918. His political activism during South Africa’s apartheid years led to him spending 27 years in prison.

On May 10 1994 – four years after his release from jail – Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa’s first democratically elected President.

President, Mandela established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate human rights and political violations committed by both supporters and opponents of apartheid between 1960 and 1994.

Among the senior staff and academics on the walk was Geoff Thompson, UEL’s Chair of Governors, and the founder of the Youth Charter, a charity and United Nations NGO, which tackles educational non-attainment and the negative effects of crime, drugs, gang-related activity and racism by implementing development programmes imbued with the ethics of sporting and artistic excellence.

Mr Thompson said, “Mandela’s legacy is very much reflective of the graduating students today, and in our focus on diversity, social mobility and widening participation in education.

“The walk was a way of bringing people together on this historic day, and to help reflect on UEL’s enhanced commitment to addressing the challenges facing young people.  

“Mandela’s values of tolerance and the spirit of mutual support are very much needed in the communities of the UK right now as we’re currently witnessing a spike in violence among our young people. This is something both the Youth Charter and UEL will continue to tackle.”