This year's acclaimed Mandela Rhodes scholarship was awarded to 40 outstanding young South Africans who have the potential to make a difference in society. Rhodes University came out tops with six scholarships followed by the University of Cape Town with five.
Aviwe May, Ameil Harikishun, Lumumba Mthembu, Abigail Branford, Kyla Hazell and Selokwane Morake represent a range of disciplines including Law, English, Marine Biology and Biotechnology, and epitomize the best of what South African youth have to offer society.
Sizwe Mabizela, Rhodes' Vice-Chancellor, met with the students recently and congratulated them on their achievements.
Describing Rhodes as a leader in many of the fields represented by the six awardees, Mabizela said they couldn’t be in a better place to pursue their particular research interests at a postgraduate level than Rhodes.
Aviwe May, who aspired to be a medical doctor throughout school, changed his mind after his love for Chemistry was “revitalized” during career exhibitions in his Grade 11 year at Toise High School, King William’s Town.
May is interested in the biological side of Science, and wants to pursue studies in medicinal chemistry.
May has developed leadership skills and values through a broad involvement with various initiatives including being on the Dean’s list for academic merit at Rhodes, being a two-time recipient of the Kimberley Hall academic excellence award and receiving more than 11 academic achievement certificates at school.
Fellow scientist Ameil Harikishun’s passion for marine biology developed early on in life.
He described himself as a “passionate environmentalist” from the age of 10.
His research interests lie in marine ecosystem response to climate change, marine conservation and resource management.
His current research spans the effects of climate change on the coral reefs in Sodwana Bay, KwaZulu-Natal, to an undersea mountain off the Madagascar Ridge; the results of this will contribute to climate change monitoring of South African marine ecosystems as well as the potential demarcation of open ocean marine protected areas.
Harikishun completed a Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Science Honours at the University of Cape Town before moving to Rhodes to pursue his MSc.
Determination and resilience have gotten first year Masters in English scholar Lumumba Mthembu this far in his academic career.
Eleven months into his undergraduate studies at Rhodes, Mthembu lost his mother to alcohol poisoning.
The loss destabilized his academic performance and precipitated a withdrawal from public life.
Mthembu obtained his BA with distinction in English.
Following graduation Mthembu picked up odd jobs over the next three years, including a brief stint as the youngest member of staff at Lebone II College of the Royal Bafokeng.
Then in June 2013 Mthembu suffered second degree burns from a winter house fire.
“For the next four months I lay on my stomach enduring mind-shattering levels of pain. My body fought back and co-opted my mind, demanding a single promise that if I get back on my feet I have to take over the world,” he said.
Since then Mthembu has gone from strength to strength. Currently enrolled for a Masters in English at Rhodes, he intends to pursue his PhD and stay at Rhodes in the future.
He is researching and writing his thesis on four young South African authors, all under the age of 40, writing for Kwela Books.
A deeply personal and absorbing engagement with gender inequality has contributed to Abigail Branford dedicating herself to developing inclusive ways to interrogate the ideas which generate and excuse gender violence.
After majoring in Politics and History during her undergraduate degree at Rhodes, Branford came to realize the vastness of the interrogation required.
In order to provide a platform for the necessary interrogation, and after being inspired by the work of engaged scholars Eusebius
Mckaiser and Beth Vale, Branford founded the Gender and Sex Project.
Kyla Hazell is currently studying a joint Honours degree in Law and Political and International Studies, with a focus on Political Philosophy and Human Right’s Law.
She is currently on exchange at Utrecht University in the Netherlands completing the second half of the curriculum.
Selokwane Morake is well on his way to fulfilling his vision of establishing himself as a “firm and positive contributor in Africa through scientific development”.
Currently studying for an Honours in Biotechnology, Morake completed a BSc majoring in Biochemistry and Chemistry.
Of the scholarship, Mthembu said: “For me, the scholarship is my most significant academic achievement to date. It means everything. It is the chance to step into better things.”
The Mandela Rhodes Scholarships aim to help in building leadership excellence in Africa.