Tshefu Awonke has made history by becoming the first South African student at the University of Fort Hare, to be the recipient of the Mandela Rhodes scholarship. The Mandela Rhodes foundation annually selects between 20-30 students from universities throughout the  African continent. The goal of the Mandela Rhodes Scholarship programme is to offer educational opportunities to young Africans with scholastic, intellectual and leadership potential to study at suitable tertiary institutions and to create a network of principled future leaders, with the capacity and will to advance themselves and their countries.

The Scholarships aim to give expression to the legacy of academic excellence, leadership, education, reconciliation and entrepreneurship. The Mandela Rhodes Foundation bases its work on the belief that a shortage of individual human skills is a significant factor holding South Africa and Africa back from achieving the necessary levels of good governance and growth to allow the continent to take its rightful place in the globalised world. Through its signature programme, the Mandela Rhodes Scholarships, it seeks to address this need.

Tshefu Awonke grew up in Nonibe location, a small village in King William’s Town. He was raised by a single parent in the form of his grandmother, who according to Tshefu played a huge role in shaping the person he is today. “My grandmother, despite the fact that she had too many of her own dreams denied, deferred and destroyed, instilled in me that I could have dreams and  I had the responsibility and the power to make those dreams come true. I owe the best in me to her.” In 2011 he received the Abe Bailey travel bursary to spend a month in the United Kingdom, and earlier this year he travelled to Russia to attend a student practise at the Joint institute of Nuclear Research. He is currently doing Masters in chemistry under the supervision of Professor P. Ajibade, who Tshefu considers to be his role model and  mentor.

When asked about how he felt about this achievement, Tshefu had this to say, “I consider being part of the Mandela Rhodes family a great honour that is bestowed not only on me personally, but to the UFH community and the great history that the institution has in producing leaders for the African continent, if I am taller it is because I am standing on the shoulders of great leaders such as Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela and others, who paved the way for our generation.”

“I wish to acknowledge my supervisor, Professor P.A. Ajibade for his guidance and support, Mr P. Kwinana for his mentorship, and Mr V.Maqanda for being the great advisor throughout my journey.”“Last but not least I dedicate this achievement to my late grandmother who nurtured the seed in me. A woman who broke her back putting me through school, which lead to me being the first member of my family to obtain a university degree. This moment is about her.”

Article source: University of Fort Hare