By DAILY MAIL REPORTER Last updated at 8:28 PM on 18th July 2011
More than 12 million schoolchildren across South Africa joined in a special chorus of 'Happy Birthday' for Nelson Mandela before lessons this morning.
The revered former president, who turns 93 today, also received birthday wishes from a host of world leaders, including South African president Jacob Zuma, and U.S. President Barack Obama.
Mr Obama called Mr Mandela 'a beacon for the global community, and for all who work for democracy, justice and reconciliation'.
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Elder statesman: Mr Mandela surrounded by his family in a portrait released to celebrate his 93rd birthday. He will be spending it with loved ones in his home village of Qunu
Brithday greetings: Children at a primary school in Johannesburg join millions of others in a special early morning chorus for Nelson Mandela
David Cameron, who is currently in South Africa, also added his voice to the chorus of congratulations.
Mr Mandela, who has retired from public life, is expected to spend the day with his family in his home village of Qunu, some 600 miles south of Johannesburg.
The nation's 12.5 million schoolchildren sang Happy Birthday before starting class, with television and radio stations urging the nation to join in the special rendition of the song, given an African twist by a local composer.
All join in: Children celebrate Mandela's birthday at a museum near his home in Qunu. The chorus of Happy Birthday had a special African twist
For the third year, at the request of his charitable foundation, July 18 is observed as Mandela Day, recognised by the United Nations as a global call to volunteer for good causes for 67 minutes - one minute for every year of Mr Mandela's public service.
Mr Mandela became South Africa's first black president after spending 27 years in prison for his fight against apartheid.
He was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.
Congratulations: Birthday greetings have been sent from world leaders including Jacob Zuma and Barack Obama
For many South Africans, the elder statesman is thought of as a beloved family member and referred to by his clan name, Madiba.
Students at the Johannesburg School for the Blind and Partially Sighted sang and danced as they wished their 'Tata Mandela' Happy Birthday.
Most of the students are victims from South Africa's impoverished townships and have received assistance from the Children of Fire charity.
Shining example: Youngsters are taught to look up to Mr Mandela as an inspiration
The charity's founder Bronwen Jones said that Mr Mandela was an inspiration to the children, many of whom were blinded during deliberate abuse.
She said: 'For them to be able to rise from that and forgive the people who hurt them, there's no better example than Madiba.'