Jul 18 2013, 7:24am CDT | by Luigi Lugmayr
Pretoria, July 18 — Children at the school where Nelson Mandela first attended as a child Thursday wished the former president a blessed 95th birthday, joining a worldwide chorus of birthday wishes sent to the anti-apartheid icon.
As a youngster, Mandela attended school here, where his teacher, Miss Mdingane, gave him the name Nelson, in accordance with a custom to give all school children "Christian" names.
Situated on a hill, not far from the home where Mandela grew up, the school was renovated in 1995 after Mandela himself personally visited the institution.
Although Mandela was born in Mvezo, another village along the banks of the Mbhashe river, the icon has always regarded Qunu as his home.
"We wish Tata (Mandela) a blessed day and many more years to live. He remains our inspiration and we are all blessed to have him," said eight-year-old Yibanathi Sizani.
Another learner, 10-year-old Athenkosi Maholwana, expressed her wish to be with Mandela on his special day.
"I want to sing happy birthday for him and give him a present because I love him," he said.
School principal Felix Mbolana said every year during Mandela's birthday, children from the school are taken to the former president's home in the village where they celebrate with him.
"We feel very proud to have our school associated with him," said Mbolana.
"He is our son. His primary basic education started here. We are so proud of that and I think the fact that he later became the first black president of South Africa has done wonders for the village," he said.
Mandela remains in hospital after having been admitted June 8 for a recurring lung infection. Doctors have said that his health is steadily improving.
The UN has declared Mandela's birthday as an international day devoted to public service. Every year, people around the world are asked to give 67 minutes of their time to work in their local community. The 67 minutes are symbolic of the 67 years Mandela gave of his life to service.
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