However, dedication and hard work, fuelled by a desire for success and a recognition of education as game-changer, has paid off for some of these pupils, who are among the 24 recipients of the prestigious Vice-Chancellor’s Scholarship.
The 24 students from predominantly the Eastern Cape, with the remainder from KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo, were officially awarded the R100 000 a year scholarship – up 4% on last year’s R96 000 – based on their excellent academic achievements at their respective high schools.
Addressing the scholars and their parents during an intimate cocktail function near the University’s Archive and Exhibition Centre, on Second Avenue Campus, Vice-Chancellor Prof Sibongile Muthwa reminded guests of the University’s student-centric approach and the importance placed on social inclusion.
“At this university, we receive students from all walks of life. Whilst nationally, the doors of learning have been widely opened, the question we have been asking ourselves is how all of our students can have a better sense of belonging here, at Mandela,” Prof Muthwa said.
“It is imperative for us to build a university in which all students feel a sense of belonging. We are critically aware that experiences of social exclusion can impact negatively on academic performance.
“We are therefore focused on building a socially inclusive culture here as the bedrock of student success.”
The Vice-Chancellor’s Scholarship is renewable for each year of the students’ undergraduate studies, provided they maintain the requisite levels of academic achievement.
The sought-after Vice-Chancellors Scholarship (VCS) was introduced in 2009 with a view to attract talented students from a diversity of schools across the country, taking into consideration the different categories of schools and what constitutes excellence given the inequalities in the South African schooling system.
Prof Muthwa said the University strove to “to catalyse dynamic, excellent, innovative and transformative student life, wellbeing and development”.
“At the heart of this work is the student-centred approach, which we have conceptualised as the eco-system of integrated excellent services, purposefully designed with and for students to enable and expose, engage and empower them as human beings to realise their life aspirations through the pathway of Mandela University,” she said.
“We firmly believe that the educational experience must give meaning to the context of those who are its subjects. It is against this backdrop that the mode of delivery of our student life and development programmes seeks to involve and place the student at the centre.”
Mandela University has consistently shown strong commitment towards ensuring that academically deserving students from diverse backgrounds are not excluded from getting a higher education because of a lack of funds.
The 24 scholars underwent a rigorous selection process, where they were chosen from a total 520 applicants from some of the country’s poorest and more affluent schools in all nine provinces, with the majority (56%) coming from the Eastern Cape, followed by Limpopo (14%).
This year’s Vice-Chancellor’s scholars are now counted among 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.
Mandela University has remained steadfast in its resolve to enable deserving students from all walks of life to access a tertiary education. Once in the University system, students are given the necessary support towards ensuring their success so that they emerge well-rounded Mandela University graduates ready to take on, and change, the world.
Speaking on behalf of his peers, BComm Accounting student and recipient Lukholo Mapongwana thanked the Vice-Chancellor’s Scholarship for the opportunity to pursue a higher education qualification.
“The Vice-Chancellor did not just stick to her role of providing academic and administrative leadership, but made a contribution in the building of this country’s future,” he said.
“I wish to express our sincere thanks for being the recipients of this scholarship. Most of us come from very humble backgrounds, where our parents would have never been able to afford the fees to enrol at this university, nor give us the kind of support we are given by the scholarship to cope with university and to grow to be civilised citizens of South Africa.
“We express our deepest gratitude and will work hard in achieving great results as a gesture of appreciation for what has been done for us. We aim to follow in the footsteps of those who came up with such schemes and try to make a difference and add positive value in the development of our communities.
“Ukwanda kwaliwa ngumthakathi, ngokwamaXhosa. Siyabulela.”