NMMU Honours students benefit from Summit Scholarship

JUNE 13, 2016

“For the first time in my entire university career, I can buy all my text books!”

For Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University Psychology Honours student Sithisa Magxwalisa, 21, receiving the university’s Summit Scholarship – worth R50 000 and specifically for Honours students – has meant the end of long hours spent in the library, photocopying textbooks she could not afford.

Receiving Summit Scholarships from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University has meant Psychology Honours student Sithisa Magxwalisa and Education Honours student Jamiellah Domingo can pursue their study dreams.

“It has drastically changed my study life … I used to spend most of my days in the library making use of short-loan books to compensate for the lack of my own textbooks.”

She is also hoping to use some of the scholarship money to move closer to the university.

Part of the group of students referred to as the “missing middle”, she was never considered poor enough to qualify for financial assistance – but not having textbooks or on-campus accommodation has been a constant challenge.

“Getting the scholarship has also meant one less problem for my parents,” said Magxwalisa. They are also funding her brother’s school fees, her uncle’s university fees and her cousin’s college fees – a tight stretch on their respective salaries as a high school principal and government employee.

NMMU Vice-Chancellor Prof Derrick Swartz quite literally climbed a mountain to raise the scholarship money for Magxwalisa – and 19 other academically-deserving but financially-needy students – to complete their honours studies.

The money raised from Swartz’s fundraising climb up Mount Fuji last year, the #climb4nmmu project which totaled more than R1m, became the university’s Summit Scholarship, available to students who have completed their first degree, and dare to take their careers further through full-time honours studies.

The scholarship is one of the ways NMMU is pro-actively responding to the national challenge of raising future generations of academics and, critically, how it is widening access and enabling a greater number of students to continue their studies beyond their undergraduate degrees.

The Summit Scholarship, which was launched at the start of this year, has 20 recipients from across all faculties at NMMU, including the Arts, Business and Economic Sciences, Engineering, the Built Environment and Information Technology (EBEIT), Education, Health Sciences and Science. 

Throughout their honours year, the recipients are expected to track and share their experiences, which serves as a demonstrable way of sharing with donors, supporting academics and administrators to ensure they reach their own individual summits.

Magxwalisa wants to continue her studies to master’s level – and ultimately wants to explore how exposure and access to psychological interventions can be broadened for children with special learning needs in South Africa’s townships.

Another ecstatic recipient was 46-year-old mother of four, Jamiellah Domingo, who called receiving the scholarship “an absolute blessing”.

“At 46, I never thought I would qualify. Without this bursary, I wouldn’t have been able to pursue my dream of postgraduate studies.”

Domingo worked as a teacher at Malabar Primary School for 22 years, and is hoping her Education Honours studies will be the first step towards a long-term career in academia, where she can help to tackle some of the critical problems facing education in South Africa today. Her husband, Shaun, is also a teacher.