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S.African celebrities revamp school for Mandela Day

Prominent South African artists launched the run-up to this year’s Mandela Day on Wednesday with a clean up of a public school in Soweto, the cradle of the anti-apartheid movement.

For the fourth year running, July 18 will be observed as Mandela Day, which recognises the first black South African president’s lifelong activism for democracy in his country.

The United Nations makes a global call on the icon’s birthday — his 94th this year — for people to volunteer for good causes for 67 minutes — representing each year of Mandela’s life in active politics.

Musicians, actors, and fashion designers painted two classrooms at Thlatlogang junior secondary school, situated a few kilometres (miles) from Mandela’s old house, now a heritage centre.

R&B-star Danny K urged fellow artists “to inspire better hope, to lead by great example … in the spirit of Tata Madiba for the needy in our country,” referring to Mandela by his nickname.

“I don’t think it’s a challenge to find a cause, community, a home, a school that needs your help.”

The 40-year-old school has built extra classrooms with prefabricated materials to make more space for its 900 students.

“The purpose of Mandela Day is to follow Mandela’s experience and achieve a better place. Everyone can help change the world around them,” said Achmat Dangor, head of the Mandela Foundation.

UN spokeswoman for South Africa Helen Hoedi called the enthusiasm for the project “humbling.”

“The message of giving your time to uplift your fellow citizens is reaching people,” she said.

Mandela, president between 1994 and 1999, retired from active politics in 2004. He is increasingly frail and stays away from public activities.