For many young South Africans, getting a tertiary education is only a wish. For 24 first year Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) students who were awarded the prestigious Vice-Chancellor’s Scholarship on Friday night, this wish has become a reality.
The 2017 Vice-Chancellor’s Scholars bagged the R89 000 a year scholarship – up 8% on last year’s R82 782 in line with the fee increase – based on their excellent academic achievements in high school. The scholarship, awarded during an intimate function at the North Campus Conference Centre, is renewable for each year of the scholars’ undergraduate studies, provided they maintain the levels of high academic achievement.
NMMU vice-chancellor Prof Derrick Swartz introduced the scholarship in 2009 with the main objective of attracting top performing school-leavers from a diversity of schools, including those in the lower quintiles, across the country.
Presenting the coveted scholarships for the last time at the University‘s helm, Prof Swartz said the scholarship was just one of the many ways in which the university recognised and awarded top academic performance and widened access to higher education.
“I created this scholarship some years ago in response to a desire on our part, as has always been the case, to affirm and to vindicate the importance of achievement, individual endeavour, hard work and merit. These, for us, are as important as all the other principles around which the university is organised,” he said.
Prof Swartz, whose term as vice-chancellor comes to an end this year, has shown a commitment towards ensuring that academically deserving students are not excluded from getting a higher education because of a lack of funds.
“For me, it is an exceedingly proud moment that we have a number of students who are the best of the best, from all walks of life and from different corners of the country … here to join the university and to receive the highest undergraduate scholarship award in the history of the university,” he said.
“The University creates a lot of opportunity for access of students who have never seen a higher education institution, or who would be the first generation in their families to have succeeded in joining a university and having the opportunity to break the grip of intergenerational depravation and disadvantage. This is a unique chance for students to do that and we create a diverse range of opportunities.
“We spend well over R300-million annually on bursaries and scholarships at undergraduate level for the poorest of the poor students in the system coming from all walks of life, giving them opportunities. On top of that, we also create academic order that recognises high distinction and high achievement.”
The 24 scholars underwent a rigorous selection process were chosen from a total 319 applicants from some of the country’s poorest and more affluent schools, with the majority (76%) coming from the Eastern Cape. The remainder come from Free State, Gauteng, Kwazulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and the Western Cape.
The 2017 Vice-Chancellor’s scholars are now counted among the more than 200 students who have to date been supported through the Vice-Chancellor’s Scholarship, many of whom have gone on to make successes in their respective careers.
Thanking the University for the opportunity, BSc student Brynne Lewis said the scholarship meant different things to the recipients.
“It means that they no longer have to worry about how they are going to pay their bills and can dedicate themselves fully to their studies and developing themselves as better human beings. It gives them the ability to support their families and it means that parents no longer have to have sleepless nights about how they would pay for their children’s tuition,” she said.
“For some, they are the first in their families to ever attend university and receive a tertiary education. Receiving the VCS has not only given the 2017 recipients breathing space financially but also an amazing support system that will ensure our success.
“The VC scholars of 2017 would like to thank the custodian and initiator of this scholarship for without him, we would never have received this scholarship that has significantly changed our lives. Thank you to the vice-chancellor Prof Derrick Swartz for giving us an opportunity to create something special by combining our hearts and our minds with an education that we may not otherwise have been able to get.”
A total 25 recipients were selected, but one student opted out for personal reasons.
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