From young doctors graduating at the top of their class to physiotherapists, engineers and economists, the 2021 Class of southern Africa’s Rhodes scholars comprises outstanding, socially committed young people brimming with talent and leadership potential.
The 10 Rhodes scholars have been awarded scholarships to further their studies at the Oxford University. Nine of them hail from South Africa and one from Botswana.
For the first time, the selection process for the prestigious scholarships, which are awarded by the Rhodes Trust, was conducted virtually.
The alumni of Rhodes scholars in southern Africa include former University of Cape Town vice-chancellor Dr Max Price, retired Constitutional Court judge Justice Edwin Cameron, founding executive director of the Nelson Mandela Foundation Shaun Johnson and President Cyril Ramaphosa’s economic adviser Trudy Makhaya.
The national secretary of the Rhodes Scholarships in Southern Africa, Ndumiso Luthuli, said they received a “strong pool of applications”.
“We were blessed with a very strong pool of applications this year; and both the 48 shortlisted candidates interviewed and the 10 selection committees across the region, rose to the challenge.
“They embraced the new style of virtual interviewing with mettle, integrity and a ‘can do’ attitude. This ensured that the virtual selection process for the Rhodes Scholarships 2021 ran seamlessly and remained robust, transparent and rigorous,” said Luthuli.
He also congratulated the 10 Rhodes scholars-elect for 2021 and thanked the more than 100 volunteers who were involved in the selection for their significant efforts in the selection process.
“All are outstanding young graduates, from universities across our region, who have studied diverse disciplines, ranging from politics and philosophy, to economics and commerce, to physiotherapy and medicine, to engineering and hydrology.
“All academically talented, socially committed, and exceptional young people. We are inspired by their leadership potential, moral courage, energy, and commitment to making a difference in Africa and impacting on the world.”
These are the 10 Rhodes scholars for Southern Africa, who will join a further 90 international students at Oxford, who will make up the Class of 2021:
Zachary Abel – Western Cape
The 24-year-old former South African College School alumnus graduated with an honours degree in economics from UCT last year. He intends to study towards an MPhil in economics at Oxford University.
In the past year, he has been working with a management consultancy firm, gaining experience in health care, retail and insurance, and doing pro bono work in public health and education projects.
He is passionate about development in Africa and also volunteers for the National Sea Rescue Institute, where he is a trainee coxswain in Cape Town.
Dr Amy Booth – KZN
She was the dux at Hillcrest High School and was awarded her medical degree summa cum laude at UCT. The 25-year- old aims to read towards an MSc in international health and tropical medicine at Oxford.
Among her many honours, she was awarded the gold medal for the top performance in her MBChB programme, and served as the president of the UCT Surgical Society – for which she was awarded a leadership award. Booth is also the youngest trustee at her former high school, where she also runs a scholarship aimed at assisting students from difficult backgrounds.
She is currently serving her internship at the King Edward Hospital in Durban.
Buntu Fanteso – Eastern Cape
The 24-year-old attended Zwelibangile Senior Secondary School before completing his BSc in environmental studies at Walter Sisulu University in 2017. He obtained a BSc honours degree in geography at the University of Johannesburg, and is completing an MSc in environmental management. He intends to read for a DPhil in geography and environment at Oxford.
Fanteso is involved in a programme that trains TVET college students in entrepreneurship in an effort to fight youth unemployment.
Jemma Houghton – Eastern Cape
The 25-year-old former St Andrew’s College (Grahamstown) candidate graduated summa cum laude for her BSc honours in physiotherapy last year at the University of the Western Cape. She intends to read for two Master’s degrees at Oxford, the first an MSc in international health and tropical medicine and then an MSc in musculoskeletal sciences.
She has been doing community service at the Butterworth Hospital this year and has gained experience in rural health care and seen how the Covid-19 pandemic has amplified inequalities in the country’s health system.
“Daily, I am exposed to brutal inequality, suffering, and illness. But, I have and continue to experience incredible interdisciplinary teamwork, innovation and ubuntu,” said Houghton, who enjoys dancing.
Tinashe Ngwenya – Botswana
The only one of the 10 scholars who is not from South Africa, Ngwenya attended high school at Ledumang Senior Secondary School. He is a University of Botswana alumnus, and graduated with a first-class mechanical engineering degree in October.
He intends to read for a DPhil in engineering science and undertake research in future propulsion and power at Oxford.
Dr Amy Paterson – KZN
She was the dux scholar at her former school, Treverton College, before graduating with first class honours and receiving the class medal for the best overall performance in medicine at UCT in 2018. She intends to read for a DPhil in surgical sciences at Oxford.
Paterson, who hails from the KZN Midlands, dedicated herself to UCT’s community health-focused Shawco clinics throughout her student years and led the Friends of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) society for two years. She completed her internship at Durban’s Addington Hospital and her current research looks at surgical outcomes for women in Africa.
Dr Reantha Pillay – KZN
The 27-year-old medical doctor and former Maris Stella head girl graduated cum laude from the University of Pretoria and has been completing her community service this year. She was the founding member of Friends of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Border) at her university. She will be reading towards an MSc in international health and tropical medicine at Oxford.
She is a former SA representative for public speaking and debating and served as a provincial coach and national selector.
Dr Maxine Smit – Western Cape
The 26-year-old Bloemhof Girls’ School alumnus graduated cum laude and earned the Chancellor’s Medal for the best overall medical student at Stellenbosch University. She intends reading towards an MSc in musculoskeletal sciences and thereafter an MBA at Oxford.
Smit is passionate about preventative medicine, health and fitness promotion and holistic patient-centred care.
Daniel Tate – Western Cape
The 22-year-old former Bishops alumnus, who was the dux scholar in 2016, is completing an honours degree in international relations at the University of Cape Town. He also holds an undergraduate degree in politics, philosophy and economics from UCT. He is a student leader, having sat on UCT’s students’ representative council. He intends to read for an MPhil in international relations, in pursuit of further investigating the role of intergovernmental organisations in peacekeeping on the African continent.
Sasha Tinelli – Western Cape
The 24-year-old Somerset College alumnus is a Potter Fellow completing her Master’s degree in neurosciences at the Raimondo Lab at UCT, where completed a BSc degree and an honours degree in neuroscience.
Sasha intends to expand her neuroscience training by pursuing a DPhil in neuroscience at Oxford.