Thandi Tutu-Gxashe Honors Dr. Thomas Mensah and shares passion for education

Thandi Tutu-Gxashe
Scientist/Inventor Dr. Thomas Mensah (left) with Thandi Tutu-Gxashe, daughter of Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu

Thandi Tutu-Gxashe believes Arica is more than a continent with its share of diseases, famine, starvation, wars and coups, said the daughter of one of the world’s most renowned social activists

It is, “firstly, a cradle of all humankind and there have been many contributions to the world that have come from the African continent,” said Thandi Tutu-Gxashe, daughter of Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu.

A lot of people — young and old — don’t know about those contributions, Tutu-Gxashe said “and it’s so strange that in this time of technology and a shrinking globe that some of the stories of Africa have yet to be told to the worldwide audience.”

Tutu-Gxashe came to Greenville to help share some of those stories.

She, along with the South Carolina Chapter of the South African Chamber of Commerce in Greenville, honored Dr. Thomas Mensah, an inventor of fiber optics technology, at the LIWA Africa gala.

This is just to tell people and to show them that we as Africans have contributed something to impact the world,” said Mapitso Rivera, president of the S.C. Chapter of the South African Chamber of Commerce.

The Liwa Award

Because of Dr. Mensah, who is originally from Ghana, we have the social media, the Internet, cell phones and all that,” said Rivera, founder of LIWA Africa (the beauty of Africa), an annual celebration in Greenville.

In addition to honoring  Mensah, Tutu-Gxashe shared with Greenville her efforts to help school children in Africa.

Knowledge about contributions from Africa, she said, “goes hand-in-hand with what is the education we are giving our children, not just on the African continent, but worldwide.

What is it that they’re learning? Who are they hearing about? Who is telling the stories and whose stories are they telling?,” she said. “That goes hand-in-hand with the type of education, the quality of education on the continent.

Tutu-Gxashe is the CEO of TutuDesk, a campaign to provide portable workstations to millions of schoolchildren in Africa.

Functional literacy — the ability to read and write — is almost impossible to achieve without a dedicated writing surface — a school desk”, according to

That has an impact on their education, their ability to become economically active, and it effects their families, the community, the country, the continent, and the world in general, Tutu-Gashe said.

That’s part of why tutu desks are so important,” she said. “It’s starting almost at the grassroots level at trying to educate as many or push into economic activity as many of Africa’s children as possible.”

The campaign has given out more than 1.5 million desks in 24 African countries, but the need is 95 million, she said.

1.5 million may sound like a big number but when you compare it to 95 million that’s about 1 percent. That’s atrocious,” Tutu-Gxashe said.

We have a big problem and if we don’t deal with it now when the kids are in school, we’re going to have to deal with it later and by then, it may overwhelm us,” she said.

Tutu-Gxashe is the eldest daughter of human rights activist Archbishop Desmond and Leah Tutu.

Desmond Tutu was honored with the Peace Prize in 1984 for his “opposition to South Africa’s brutal apartheid regime.

Tutu-Gxashe’s passions include her research work in adult HIV treatment and at the Perinatal HIV Research Unit in Soweto. her bio on

The issues close to her heart include racial reconciliation, South Africa, women’s issues, and HIV-AIDS, equality — and equally in preserving the legacy of her parents in their striving for global peace and justice, the TutuDesk website said.

Tutu-Gxashe said her social activism, perhaps, came through her father’s genes.

It’s almost like you have no choice in it,” she said. “If you’re not trying to do your little bit of good in the world where you are, why are you not and what is it that you are doing? It’s those little bits of good that will overwhelm the world and make the world a better place for everyone.”

Tutu-Gaxshe hopes that the people in Greenville and throughout South Carolina will take the Tutudesks campaign to heart and support it.

I don’t think it’s just about Africa’s children. I think it’s about how the world views the whole world and that what you do impacts what happens to somebody else, maybe in a whole global way, a 24-hour plane ride away,” she said.

It may seem far away but it’s not because we are so very interconnected and so interdependent.”

Visit to learn about the Thandi Tutu-Gxashe Tutu Desks campaign and for more on Thomas Mensah.

Source: Angelia Davis, Greenville Online

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