Dr 'Mabokang Monnapula-Mapesela, DVC: Academic and Student Affairs at Rhodes University, recently attended an Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) roundtable which included, among others, The Duchess of Sussex.
At the event, hosted by the University of Johannesburg and chaired by Dr Joanna Newman, ACU Chief Executive and Secretary General, discussions highlighted not only the need for universities to promote equality and inclusive access to education, but also their power to challenge the status quo in wider society.
The Duchess, who became Patron of the ACU earlier this year, heard from changemakers from universities across South Africa, who are helping to transform their campuses and communities to make them safer, more inclusive places for women and marginalised groups.
Her Royal Highness joined calls to bring an end to violence against women, increase access to education and boost the numbers of women working in STEM, saying: "When a woman is empowered it changes absolutely everything in the community and starting an educational atmosphere is really a key point of that."
ACU members advancing gender equality
The Duchess announced that three new ACU Gender Grants have been awarded to universities in South Africa – the University of Johannesburg, Stellenbosch University and the University of the Western Cape.
These grants will fund a programme to increase the number of women in research leadership positions; a unique campus walking route designed to encourage meaningful conversations about gender issues; and workshops to develop inclusive university policies and research practices.
Through their innovative projects, these ACU-member universities will work to advance gender equality and promote the values of respect, understanding and tolerance on campus and in their communities.
These grants form part of the ACU's wider work supporting gender equity and equality in the Commonwealth.
Supporting the next generation to develop solutions to global challenges
During the event, The Duchess also announced the next cohort of Queen Elizabeth Commonwealth Scholars – including four students from Tanzania, Zambia and Nigeria who will study in South Africa – highlighting the life-changing opportunities these unique awards offer.
Three current Queen Elizabeth Commonwealth Scholars from Kenya, Ghana and Canada currently studying at leading South African universities greeted The Duchess and also joined in the discussions – they are: Simon Kiongo from Kenya, studying MSc Agronomy at the University of Pretoria, Margaret McDonald from Canada, studying MSc Environmental and Geographical Sciences at the University of Cape Town and Joshua Kyeremateng from Ghana, studying LLM International Commercial Law at the University of Johannesburg.
The ACU is committed to supporting academic mobility across the Commonwealth – and through the Queen Elizabeth Commonwealth Scholarships (QECS), we create opportunities for the next generation to effect change within their local communities and beyond.
Dr Joanna Newman, ACU Chief Executive and Secretary General, said: 'We're proud of the work our member universities in South Africa are doing to advance equity, support access to education and develop solutions to global challenges – from supporting women in STEM, to reaching marginalised communities, to tackling marine pollution – demonstrating the power of higher education to transform society.
'We're delighted that our Patron, HRH The Duchess of Sussex, joined us for these important discussions today, and we look forward to continue working together with our member universities to build a better world through higher education'.
About the ACU
The ACU is an international organisation dedicated to building a better world through higher education.
We believe that international collaboration is central to this ambition. By bringing universities together from around the world – and crucially the people who study and work within them ? we help to advance knowledge, promote understanding, broaden minds, and improve lives.
We champion higher education as a cornerstone of stronger societies, supporting our members, partners, and stakeholders as they adapt to a changing world.
Full list of attendees
Ms Shelley Barry, Lecturer, Department of Journalism, Film and Television, University of Johannesburg; PhD student, University of the Witwatersrand
Prof Ahmed Bawa, Chief Executive Officer, Universities South Africa
HE Nigel Casey MVO, British High Commissioner to South Africa
Dr Beverley Damonse, Group Executive: Science Engagement and Corporate Relations, National Research Foundation
Ms Monica du Toit, Manager, Employment, Equity and Diversity Training, Stellenbosch University
Dr Sarah Fawcett, Senior Lecturer, Department of Oceanography, University of Cape Town
Ms Susana Galván, Country Director, British Council South Africa
Dr Mary Hames, Director, Gender Equity Unit, University of the Western Cape
Mr Simon Kiongo, Queen Elizabeth Commonwealth Scholar from Kenya, University of Pretoria
Mr Joshua Kyeremateng, Queen Elizabeth Commonwealth Scholar from Ghana, University of Johannesburg
Ms Tshiamo Legoale, Geologist and Researcher, Mintek; Global FameLab Winner 2017
Ms Boitumelo Mampane, MA student, University of Johannesburg
Prof Tshilidzi Marwala, Vice-Chancellor and Principal, University of Johannesburg
Ms Margaret McDonald, Queen Elizabeth Commonwealth Scholar from Canada, University of Cape Town
Ms Refilwe Mofokeng, PhD student, University of KwaZulu-Natal; 2019 ACU Blue Charter Fellow
Ms Kgomotso Mokoena, Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Johannesburg; PhD student, University of the Western Cape
Dr ‘Mabokang Monnapula-Mapesela, Deputy Vice Chancellor: Academic and Student Affairs, Rhodes University
Dr Linda Mtwisha, Senior Director, Strategic Research Initiatives and Administration, University of Johannesburg
Mr Edward Ndopu, United Nations SDG Advocate
Prof Funmi Olonisakin, Vice-President and Vice-Principal International, King's College London