SMALL ACT OF KINDNESS
One can become despondent by the enormity of challenges that just do not seem to dissipate. Robert Steiner reminded me that the opposite of hope is not despair. For it is in hope that we can deal with our despair. We live with despair while we hope. We hope because we believe that the world does not have to be and stay the way it is. We do not have to fear the future because we keep on hoping, keep on showing small acts of kindness. It is in doing , that we are hoping. We hope in the face of despair and adversity.
The United Nations introduced Mandela Day in 2010, as an international day to do small acts of kindness. It is a day in honour of the legacy of Nelson Mandela, the first democratically elected president of South Africa. Around the world, we come together to fight poverty and promote peace, reconciliation and cultural diversity through volunteering and community service. Our 67 minutes of action in the hopes of transforming the world, reminds us that we have so much to give every year. It also reminds us to celebrate all the other 67 minutes of giving and acts of kindness throughout the year.
Professor Russel Botman was a serious supporter of Mandela Day as an expression of the power of kindness in hope. The Russel Botman Bursary Fund at Stellenbosch University would like to call on all of us to donate to the Fund as an act of kindness towards the youth – theirs and our collective future through education. Our small acts of kindness afford students bursary opportunities. Together we can change the world: small act of kindness, by small act of kindness.
Professor Russel Botman knew very well that changing the present for a better future necessitates a process of becoming. As a student activist and leader for social justice in the 70s and 80s and later in the church, as well as higher education, made him acutely aware of the process of becoming. Recognising that idea propagated also by Paulo Freire, the idea of a “becoming being” calls for continuous transformation. He was acutely aware of the fact that in his becoming and the becoming of our new society, he had to not only listen to the youth but include them as serious and equal partners in the transformation to take us forward.
And so, this year the Russel Botman Bursary Fund pays tribute to the youth who have taken over the baton from the youth of the 70s and 80s.
The Fallism Movement illustrates that the youth can take up social issues and achieve change even if done with different and new strategies and approaches. The movement that started out as Rhodes Must Fall at the University of Cape Town as an act of protest against colonialism at higher education institutions soon became broader.
At Stellenbosch University one of the rallying points was the role of Afrikaans as Open Stellenbosch was formed. The first Russel Botman Memorial Lecture in 2015 happened amidst those protests, where students who came with the intention to disrupt the lecture joined the proceedings, honouring Professor Botman’s contribution towards transformation in the sector. The movement soon spread to other campuses, nationally and internationally. The movement was becoming and addressed further issues like student housing and financial and other exclusion. It became the Fees Must Fall Movement that also grappled with gender issues.
It was all these issues and more: Africanising and decolonising the sector, student housing, access and inclusion that characterised Professor Botman’s tenure. The Russel Botman Bursary Fund was specifically established to grant excluded students bursary opportunities to take our society forward.
Donate generously to make this legacy sustainable.
The world is facing so many ongoing and new challenges and during the month of April, we are called upon to change the world. Prof Russel Botman made this very call on many different occasions, in fact whenever he had the opportunity.
Some of our world religions are celebrating events central to the respective faiths. To mention only two, Ramadan and Easter call for us to rethink our lives with one another and on this planet. Also, Earth Day makes this appeal on their official website,
This is the moment to change it all — the business climate, the political climate, and how we take action on climate. Now is the time for the unstoppable courage to preserve and protect our health, our families, and our livelihoods.
For Earth Day 2022, we need to act (boldly), innovate (broadly), and implement (equitably). It’s going to take all of us. All in. Businesses, governments, and citizens — everyone accounted for, and everyone accountable. A partnership for the planet.
Let us all stand up and be counted for these appeals during Freedom Month and Freedom Day. “We do this not for ourselves, but for future generations,” is what we can comfortably say in the words of Russel Botman during this time.
Stand up, make yourself heard, be seen, be counted and donate for the future of our youth who holds tomorrow. In so doing, we provide bursary opportunities that would go a long way and allow them to stand up and be counted in changing our world.
Donate to the Russel Botman Bursary Fund at Stellenbosch University.
Some of our country’s most memorable pleasant and unpleasant moments are continuously commemorated and celebrated. We see it in the statues and buildings that decorate our country, we hear it in the victory songs we sing, we celebrate it on days dedicated to these memories. One such day that commemorates a national memory is Human Rights Day. On this day, we remember the year 1969 and the events that inspired the movement for human rights like equality, human dignity, freedom of movement and residence, language and culture, and the right to life. Professor Russel Botman was both honoured and revered for his fight to advance equal human rights for all, which was part of what inspired him to create the Russel Botman Bursary Fund.
When I remember Prof Botman, many monumental things come to mind, including his dedication to Church and his beloved community during his lifetime and the honour and applause he continues to receive long after his passing – not just in South Africa but on an international scale too. While these are all good memories to behold, it is just as important that these memories inspire us to contribute to a better present and future.
Make choices today that will leave memories that inspire others and contribute to a legacy of equality for all by donating to this fund today.
We recently took a journey, a Pilgrimage of sorts, to the resting place of our beloved Prof Botman. This collective Pilgrimage of Hope began at the Anathoth Chapel, where the group – consisting of friends, loved ones, and the recipients of his bursary fund – traveled through the Vineyards, and up to the steep Bottelary Hill. At the very top, we were able to catch our breaths and enjoy the breathtaking views of Hangklip, Rooi-Els, False Bay, and the majestic Table Mountain, decked in clouds. The journey was a beautiful representation of Professor Botman’s life, the Chapel encompassing his dedication to God and his work within the Church community; the trek uphill a testament to the challenges he endured and overcame, and the people who were present the embodiment of the lives he touched and changed during his life and after his departure.
The presence of the recipients made this Pilgrimage of Hope even more special – to know that his life’s work was not in vain and that even today, his legacy lived on through the lives he touched and the opportunities he afforded others. When we reached the Pinnacle of our journey, arriving at the Onder Papegaaiberg cemetery, there was a resonating sense of appreciation at the graveside of the man whose life we came to honor. Emotional messages of thanks and appreciation were shared at his graveside, and one of the most beautiful tributes was made by Prof Elena Mouton who said that ‘We are standing on thin ground; a place where heaven and earth are closest’. A fitting sentiment, knowing Prof Botman’s life, his legacy, and his love that was deeply rooted in taking care of his community and honoring God.
The remainder of our journey took us through some of his work of Hope in the town of Stellenbosch, through the University and surrounding areas from Helshoogte to Pniel. Our feet were a constant reminder of the challenges others face to make a living and survive, and we shared many moments of gratitude and thanks for those who contribute towards the Russel Botman Bursary Fund and the ways in which this fund continues to make a difference in so many lives.
The last leg of our journey took us through Devon Valley, the Berg River, and finally to Drakenstein Prison and the Mandela Prison House, where Professor Mouton’s words reverberated through all of us as we realized that thin ground, the place where heaven and earth are closest, can be found anywhere great leaders have traveled to make a difference.
This December raises critical issues our world is currently facing. With the first three days of the month commemorating those affected by AIDS, the abolition of slavery and people living with disabilities, it challenges us to put our hearts, minds, and bodies at the disposal of struggle and strife.
More so, we are celebrating Reconciliation Day, which should be a catalyst that should help and inspire us to reconcile and learn past mistakes where we did not do that. We should take days like this as an opportunity to reconcile with one another in just and fair ways to make the world a much better place for all who live in it.
After that, the month ends with religious feasts. Christians celebrate Christmas, Buddhists celebrate Rohatsu (Bodhi Day), Jews celebrate Hanukkah, and Zarathost Diso is a Zoroastrian celebration.
If we could reconcile with one another, respecting one another’s traditions and all of us as a collective of humanity, we can turn this into a season of giving, remembering, honouring, with the future in mind.
We, the Russel Botman Bursary fund at Stellenbosch University, wish all who have supported our students over this festive season. With your donations, we have been able to provide some students with bursary opportunities for their qualifications. Please continue to donate in the spirit of giving, reconciliation, better health, remembering and honouring.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, violence within the country has intensified, particularly domestic violence towards women and children. Dubbed the Shadow Pandemic, it has grown amidst the pandemic and to put an end to these horrors, we require a global collective effort.
The fight against the abuse of women and children is something that is not new to South Africa and was something Professor Russel Botman was acutely aware of. Thus, his approach to life in all spheres, not only education, included women and he offered equal opportunities to both men and women in his bursaries at Stellenbosch University. By doing so, he was offering individuals not only opportunities, but hope.
However, it seems that still more needs to be done within the state to prioritize the importance and safety of our women and children, as well as to address the response and recovery efforts to the violence that persist against our country’s grandmothers, mothers, daughter, sisters, and future.
Intimate partner violence, sexual violence and harassment, human trafficking, female genital mutilation, and child marriage are all forms of abuse that we collectively need to stand up and fight against.
In contributing to this fight against violence, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women has chosen this year’s theme as ‘Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!’ and is calling on everyone to participate in this movement. In keeping with previous years, this years International Dal will mark the launch of 16 Days of Activism and will conclude on International Human Rights Day on 10 December 2021.
Let’s make a difference and stand together by participating either in person, or on social media. Start your own conversation about gender-based violence by using the hashtags #GenerationEquality, #OrangeTheWorld, #16Days, and #SpreadTheWord.
Fight for the future of our country and give voice to the voiceless by participating in this year’s event! We need to bring home to all women and children who are living through these forms of violence and do what we can to provide support and alternatives to those suffering. In our fight to eradicate violence against women and children, we should also strive to keep our students experiencing this lived reality in mind. Thus, we are calling on you to donate towards the Russel Botman Bursary Fund and help those individuals experiencing these types of violence to create abetter present for themselves and their families.
Professor Russel Botman understood the importance of peace in all areas of life, and it was one of the most important aspects that featured in both his personal and professional life. One of the greatest examples of this from his life, would be the Western Province Council of Churches request for him to compile a list of guidelines that local congregations could use. This work was titled Totdat vrede en geretigheid ontmoet, ‘n uitdagings aan kerke en Christene, which was published in the year 1997.
The World Science Day for Peace and Development is celebrated on November 10th every year, and its aim is to ensure that all citizens across the globe are kept up to date regarding any scientific developments. In addition, this day also underscores the importance and relevance of science in our daily lives and, in some ways, echoes one of Professor Botmans favourite phrases, ‘put science behind society’.
The theme for 2021 is the ‘Future of STI: Impacts on Education, Skills, and Work’ and was chosen as a call to raise public awareness and increase appreciation of the impact science and its methods have on education, skills, and work.
Science plays a very important role in society by emphasizing the importance of scientists in broadening perspectives and understandings around the need to live in a more sustainable way for the sake of our fragile planet, and the ways in which we can continue to do so, and we believe that the university plays a big part in this. To create a society that supports this vision, Stellenbosch University needs to emphasize the importance of students studying within the Science Faculties and assist them in making a difference to the world by donating towards the completion of their degrees.
Play your part in supporting the sustainable future of our world, and these students, by donating to the Russel Botman Bursary Fund for young students.
On 18 October 2021, Prof Ronelle Carolissen delivered the seventh Russel Botman Memorial Lecture on a Teams Webinar. She told a few stories about Prof Botman, specifically how he has made a difference or intervened in someone’s life that required change. His commitment to transforming lives characterises who he was, caring and influential. The stories she imparted reminded us of the importance of education and how caring for one another, acting in love, and supporting each other proved to enhance education.
In an attempt to critique such affections in education, the idea of colonial power and ethos came to mind. The thought struck me as a possible hindrance rather than an improvement of education. The statement made me wonder whether the person who imparted these notions of colonial power and ethos was educated or not and when and why those choices were made. I also asked myself, what are the repercussions of those choices? Is there a possibility for building new, transformed relationships between those who could be labelled “colonial” and those labelled “anti-colonial”? Is the engagement even possible? If so, my next question is: why would we in a country like South Africa allow “colonial” universities to continue unchallenged, especially after Fees Must Fall? Are those universities that the critics are associated with completely divorced from colonial influence?
I will not attempt to answer these questions here as the references to their critique also did not explore the origins and nature of their own work and influence.
Suffice to say, the story or stories of Russel are stories of hope that is bringing the future into the present, hope that is critical, and hope that is transforming. Never uncritical or at least unwilling to be challenged or engaged. Not just working towards a future without referencing that future as more equal, but juster, more open, more loving, and more caring.
Thanks to Prof Carolissen and her respondent, Dr Jane Chiroma, for arguing that hope and pedagogy of hope are viable options for the tranformation of higher education in South Africa.
Prof Russel Botman celebrated his sixtieth birthday surrounded by those challenged by his future-orientated visions of a new world. The speakers at the symposium at the Faculty of Theology at Stellenbosch University came from different voices reflecting on his life, thoughts and perspectives in various fields, one of them being education.
As someone always striving to do and be better, it is impossible to categorise Prof Botman. He was continually reimagining, reinventing, and rethinking ways in which he – and the rest of us – could make this world better, particularly with regards to education. He established the Russel Botman Bursary Fund from his dream for a better future on his sixtieth birthday.
This year’s annual Russel Botman Memorial Lecture will be delivered by a professor in Community Psychology at the Department of Educational Psychology, Ronelle Carolissen. As a dear colleague of Prof Botman’s, she will continue this challenging legacy by doing the same through her lecture, “Revisiting Critical Hope in Uncertain Times”. Like Prof Botman’s, we imagine that her challenge will be to reconstruct a different and better world imaginatively and materially, with a sharper focus on the topic that the guest speaker, Dr Jane Adhiambo Chiroma, from the Pan African Christian University will be sharing. She will be joining us from Nairobi, Kenya, and responding to Prof Carolissen’s lecture.
We’re also incredibly excited to have this year’s recipients of the Bursary Fund joining us. They are an essential part of the Russel Botman Bursary Fund. Through their education, we can witness the future that Prof Botman envisioned and reimagine, reinvent, and rethink how we can continue this legacy and build from it to create an even better world. It is also important to remember that a big part of the Fund’s ability to change the future is due to the material and financial support. Without this, we are unable to provide hope for the education of these and future students. In keeping with Prof Botman’s tradition, we ask that donations be made to the fund to keep Prof Botman’s dream of a better world alive.
We wish Prof Carolissen, our very own Fullbright Scholar of 2021, well for the upcoming event, and we thank you for your thoughts and insights.