SOWETO (South Africa), July 18: South Africa's schoolchildren on Wednesday sang happy birthday to anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela as he turned 94, joining in the global praise for the much loved statesman.

Mandela, whose 1990 release from an apartheid prison put South Africa on the path to democracy and reconciliation, was expected to spend a quiet day with his family in his village home of Qunu, where he has retired from public life.

The nation's 12 million schoolchildren began their day with a special birthday song, ringing with the line: “We love you father”.

“As we celebrate his birthday, we remember that he fought for us in the struggle. The struggle was to fight apartheid,” said 12-year-old Kgaugelo Masunhloane at Batsogile primary school in Soweto.

“He spent 27 years in prison. We would want to say thank you Madiba, and we wish you happy birthday, and many more years to come.” Mandela, known fondly by his clan name Madiba, was unlikely to make any public appearances.—AFP

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