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.
As I mentioned in the last Russel Botman Memorial Lecture, 2020 proved to indeed be 20 plenty as the year was dubbed at the beginning. We celebrated the legacy of Prof Russel Botman with the announcement of a major donation from Dr Johann Rupert and the Rupert Foundation that led us to grant a bumper number of bursaries. The results achieved by these fifteen recipients have been phenomenal, even under the stringent and debilitating COVID-19 regulations. Three recipients namely Ayanda Bless (BOccupational Therapy), Hayden Damon (BSoc Work) and Nandipha Dlamini (BSc Agri Animal Science) completed their degrees with excellent results.
For the first time also, we granted bursaries to students in their first year. All of them, Carla Cummings, Lauren Cyster, Liza Fortuin, Mikhail Stone and Luzay Zimri passed their first year of study, some of them achieving distinctions in several of their courses. They have done us and Stellenbosch University proud.
Another first for 2020 was that the Russel Botman Bursary Fund extended its programme to postgraduate recipients: Lance Farao (PGDip Music Tech), Shandré La’Meyer (PGDip Second Language Study), Nomonde Mngcongo (BEd Hon Education, Development & Democracy), Tiaan Pretorius (PGDip Theology, Christian Ministry) and Chanté Stemmet (PGDip Intellectual Property Law) also passed their courses. Ashwin Thyssen was granted a continuance for their PhD in Theology.
These students have used their bursary opportunities to the best of their ability. I urge you to continue donating to this fund and if you have not yet begun, do so as a matter of urgency. Our collective future needs you to donate.
Written by Dr Beryl Botman
Being outside of the world of work and learning institutions, I am divorced from what learners, students, teachers, and lecturers have to deal with when it comes to the lack of access to teaching and learning. My limited encounters with platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and even WhatsApp group videos give me some sense of the role that distance plays. Learning encounters are not only content-based but also have to take values, attitudes and response to different personalities into account. We can be grateful that this pandemic happened when we do have access to those platforms and are not completely visually distanced.
But for maybe the majority of our population this is not a given. The pandemic has indeed highlighted the divide between the rich and the poor. For me it is even more important for us to recognise where we are in eradicating poverty, what our particular contributions towards that is to truly be able to say that we are working towards an equal society. Why have we not yet reached our targets? Why must the poor only look on to see what is possible and not be part of that possibility?
Participating in the recent Russel Botman Memorial Lecture, hosted by Stellenbosch University, I introduced the fifteen bursary recipients for 2020. During that lecture, I became so acutely aware that we are dealing with a privileged grouping in our society, with a statistic of roughly 1% of our population participating in higher education. And even there, technology and the use thereof fail us. It fails to transmit videos, the speaker cannot be heard, poor internet connection and the like. And what about the onlookers outside of these networks, without data and appropriate devices?
This informs my plea for donations to the Russel Botman Bursary Fund for more of the “outsiders” to be let into higher education – for a better future for all communities and not only some. Let this be our contribution to creating more bursary opportunities.
As the late Prof. Russel Botman once said,
“Our vision for our country and continent is a future free from poverty, where the human dignity of all people is protected, where our social and ecological systems are healthy, and where peace, security and democracy are safeguarded”
Many people claim that African students must take pride in institutions of higher learning, however, avoid the fact that we need financial access first in order to claim this pride. The Russel Botman Bursary Fund is a true reflection of manufacturing the hopes of the poor into a reality on our campus.