Madiba shapes another life
A student fortunate enough to have been selected for the first Mandela Rhodes Foundation (MRF) scholarship and to meet Madiba says that the future belongs to those who prepare for it by empowering themselves with knowledge.
The course of Dr Buntu Godongwana’s life changed forever when he received a scholarship from the Mandela Rhodes Foundation in 2005
Struggle icon and former President Nelson Mandela said: “Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a pheasant can become a doctor, the son of a mineworker can become head of the mine and the child of a farm worker can become the president of a great nation.”
Dr Buntu Godongwana, 35, one of eight students to receive an inaugural MRF scholarship in 2005, is evidence of this.
“Our progression from humble beginnings in Gugulethu, Cape Town, to sharing ideas on international platforms with world leaders in our discipline is living testimony of Madiba’s words,” he said.
Godongwana, now a lecturer at the Department of Chemical Engineering at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), said the scholarship is a special award.
“Being selected in the inaugural cohort will always be a highlight of my academic career. It’s more than a monetary award, it served as affirmation of our values and recognition of our leadership potential.
“It came with the responsibility of setting the tone and
benchmark for future scholars; living the principles of leadership, as embodied by patron Mandela; and giving substance and form to his vision of building exceptional leadership capacity in Africa. I was truly humbled and honoured to be a part of this great vision,” he said.
Born in Gugulethu in 1983, Dr Godongwana matriculated from Fezeka Secondary School as the best academic achiever in 2000. He completed his undergraduate studies in Chemical Engineering in 2004 and, along with being awarded the scholarship, was named the Learning Cape Festival Icon by the Western Cape Government in 2005. He completed his Master’s degree (cum laude) at CPUT in 2007 and registered for a PhD degree in Chemical Engineering in 2008.
But his success didn’t stop there. During his doctorate studies, Dr Godongwana was awarded a Fulbright scholarship, as a visiting researcher for 12 months, to Montana State University in the United States.
A bright future
The MRF scholarship certainly set the tone for Dr Godongwana’s bright future.
“The leadership training offered by the foundation instilled in us a sense of service and duty and a commitment to ethical leadership.
“Our association with Madiba’s name has been valuable in expanding our personal and professional networks, being invited to participate in various platforms and given us the opportunity to inspire young people to become agents of change in their communities,” he said.
Dr Godongwana had a beaming smile on his face when he met Mandela at the MRF launch at the University of Cape Town.
“It was a brief encounter. I cannot remember his exact words, but I nodded approvingly at each word from the great man. Madiba’s presence overwhelmed the entire hall,” he said.
This Mandela Month, Dr Godongwana urges South Africans to reflect on the meaning of Mandela.
“In recent years we have seen a decline in the quality of political leadership in South Africa and have seen unethical conduct by business leaders on a scale unlike any other. A country that was once thought to be a beaming light of hope is now threatened by social and economic upheavals.
“The spirit of dialogue, vision of a united country, uncompromising ethical conduct and impudence to challenge the status quo are core traits of Mandela’s being. The challenge is to embrace the spirit of Madiba and live up his standards,” he said.
Dr Buntu Godongwana was one of eight students to receive an inaugural MRF scholarship in 2005.