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'We love you father': South Africans celebrate Nelson Mandela's 94th birthday

Stephane De Sakutin / AFP - Getty Images

School children sing happy birthday to former South African President Nelson Mandela as he turned 94 on July 18, 2012, at Batsogile Primary School in Soweto.

Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters

Lutho Makhalima, right, reads a book to Nobantu Mbhokodi as part of a 'Mandela Day' campaign asking people to volunteer their time for good causes, in Qunu on July 18, 2012.

Stephane De Sakutin / AFP - Getty Images

Schoolchildren sing happy birthday to Mandela -- popularly known as Madiba -- at Batsogile Primary School in Soweto.

South Africa's 12 million schoolchildren began their day with a special 94th birthday song for former president Nelson Mandela, ringing with the line: "We love you father".

Special events are being held across the country in what has become known as "Mandela Day". The former leader's birthday is used for a campaign that aims to inspire individuals to take action to help change the world for the better by asking people to give 67 minutes of their time painting schools, planting trees, visiting orphanages and old age homes to honour Mandela's 67 years of political activism.

The Sowetan newspaper reported that Mandela would be celebrating his birthday over lunch with his family, with the menu likely to include his favorite meal of samp and tripe.

-- Agence France Presse and Reuters contributed to this post

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Schalk Van Zuydam / AP

Nelson Mandela is pictured on his birthday in his home village of Qunu on July 18, 2012.

Schalk Van Zuydam / AP

A woman carrying oranges on her head walks to a party in honor of Nelson Mandela in Mvezo, South Africa, on July 18, 2012.

Schalk Van Zuydam / AP

Children put on clothes that were given to them during a celebration for Mandela's birthday in Mvezo on July 18, 2012. Across the country, and even abroad, people are doing good deeds to honor the country's most famous statesman on his 94th birthday.

Peter Morey / Reuters

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton visits Mandela at his home in Qunu on July 17, 2012, the day before Mandela's 94th birthday.

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View images of civil rights leader Nelson Mandela, who went from anti-apartheid activist to prisoner to South Africa's first black president.

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