By Mzwandile Prince Mamaila
Makhanda, located in the Eastern Cape, is home to one of South Africa’s ancient and colonial universities, Rhodes University, named after British coloniser Cecil John Rhodes. Rhodes was founded in 1904 as Rhodes University College, through a grant from the Rhodes Trust. It became a constituent college of the University of South Africa in 1918 before becoming an independent university in 1951. Rhodes currently accommodates approximately 7000 students in both under-grad and post-grad courses, with approximately 1600 new students enrolling each year. Annually approximately 1400 under-graduate degrees and 1000 post-graduate degrees are awarded. Its transformation story is a successful one.
Makhanda is rich in South African colonial history and known to host the 1819 Battle of Grahamstown, where Xhosa warriors confronted the British settlers in a territorial dispute.
204 years later, the colonial town faces severe underdevelopment and poverty, with some considering it a ghost town. Rhodes University is one of the anchors that has kept this town operational, and the students contribute to the town’s economy. However, January tends to be a strenuous time for several students as they struggle to pay outstanding university fees and register for the academic year.
The Motsepe Foundation made it its mission to contribute towards the 2023’s university registration season, as they donated multiple funds to South African universities, with Rhodes University being one of the beneficiaries.
On the 16th of February 2023, the president of Rhodes University’s Student Representative Council (SRC), Avuxeni Tyala, was invited to join several SRC presidents from other institutions at an event hosted by The Motsepe Foundation. Rhodes University received a R800 000 donation. This donation was to cater for students who could not pay their registration fees and those who had outstanding balances from the previous year.
The Rhodes University SRC notified the students of the generous donation made by The Motsepe Foundation and their contiguous plans of equally distributing the funds to those in need. After having consulted with the student fees authorities on how to best distribute this donation, the SRC made the call. “As registration is the most pertinent issue that students face, the SRC, therefore, decided to allocate 65% of the funds to register as many students as possible. Furthermore, 15% was allocated to student wellness and 15% to gender parity, with the remaining 5% allocated to emergency funds.”
With many students reaching out for assistance, the SRC managed to help pay for 118 registration fees, using a total of R650 000 from the donation. This donation has brought relief to these students as they proceeded with registration for their academic year. This was successfully achieved through the collaboration and efforts of the Motsepe Foundation and the University SRC.