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Witsies join Mandela Rhodes Scholars

- By Buhle Zuma

A combination of academic talent and leadership values has led three Wits students to be among the 2015 cohort of Mandela Rhodes scholars.

The Mandela Rhodes Foundation recently announced the names of the recipients of the Mandela Rhodes Scholarship which is highly sought by postgraduate students on the continent.

The scholarship is awarded to individuals that reflect in their character a commitment to the principles of education, reconciliation, leadership and entrepreneurship. Close to 500 applications were submitted by top students from the continent and Witsies Leane Meiring, Luyolo Mphithi and Simbarashe Tevera were among the 40 scholars deemed to most embody the values of the scholarship. Three other scholars have elected Wits as their academic home bringing to six the number of Mandela Rhodes scholars that will be at Wits in 2015.

Mphithi, who starts his masters in Political Studies in 2015 said: “I am truly humbled and honoured to be joining the ranks of many leaders/scholars and activists who have walked this path as Mandela Rhodes Scholars. My hope is that I can use this scholarship to give back to my community in the Eastern Cape.”

Asked what contributed to his selection, Mphiti responded: “I have always believed in three concepts – vision, leadership and community. I think these values were evident to the selectors during the process.”

The Eastern Cape born Mphiti graduated with a distinction in 2013 and has raked in a couple of scholarships along the way, namely the Ernest Oppenheimer Scholarship and the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship. His leadership qualities have been harnessed during his two-year term as the leader of the Democratic Alliance Student Organisation branch at Wits.

“As an ambassador of South Africa, I represented the University in Portland in the USA, where I presented my research on the economic nuances of apartheid in contemporary South Africa,” said Mphithi.

Meiring, who embarks on her masters degree in dramatic arts in 2015 wants to live the Mandela Rhodes scholars’ motto “dream big, start small”. 

“I am a journalist and hope to qualify as a registered drama therapist after completing my masters at the Drama for Life programme. I hope to use these two qualifications concurrently to both raise awareness about the dire state of mental health care in South Africa, and the value of indigenous knowledge and rituals such as music, dance storytelling and drama in healing South Africans.” 

“I also hope to work as a drama therapist with orphaned and vulnerable children infected and affected by HIV/AIDS who have suffered multiple traumas in their short lives, and investigate how the use of traditional African folktales can strengthen their resilience and make them less susceptible to mental illness. My hope is to publish my findings and promote drama therapy within an African context,” she said.

Tevera has aspired to be a Mandela Rhodes Scholar since his first year after reading about its mission and values online. “Now is not the time to rest now that I have realised my dream,” he said. 

“I have made a pledge to make a difference to the continent.” He aims to use education to break the cycle of poverty.

His time is juggled between studies, serving the Hillbrow community through volunteer work at the 5cees, and contributing to the running of the Wits Karate Club as one of its most competitive members.

In his optimistic fashion, the industrial/organisational psychology honours student wants to humanise the work place.

According to the Foundation, “the Mandela Rhodes Foundation offers young Africans who exhibit academic prowess as well as broader leadership potential an educational opportunity unique on the continent. 

While pursuing their chosen postgraduate degree, each scholar benefits from access to leadership development programmes, rooted in the principles underpinning the Foundation.”

Mandela Rhodes Scholars to join Wits in 2015

In addition to the opportunity to interact with a diverse group of fellow scholars that spans the continent and academic disciplines, they become part of a wide-ranging network of young Africans of excellence who are expected to play leadership roles in their fields and society. 

The 2015 Mandela Rhodes Scholars bring to 275 the total number of scholarships awarded since the programme was established in 2004.

Details on the Mandela Rhodes Scholarships programme may be found at www.mandelarhodes.org. To view the complete list of the class of 2015, click here.

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