Department of Geography


Mandela Scholars visit Sussex

L-R: Rob Yates (DARO), Blanche Ting, Simba Moyo, Ntsiki Mgxabayi, Dr Nhlanhla Msomi, Fumani Mthembi, Dr Melissa Lazenby.

Five former and current Mandela Scholars met up on campus earlier this week.

Visiting from South Africa, Dr Nhlanhla Msomi and Fumani Mthembi met current Mandela Scholars:

  • Simbarashe Moyo, studying for an LLM in International Human Rights Law,
  • Ntsiki Mgxabayi, studying for an MA in International Education & Development,
  • and Blanche Ting, doctoral researcher and Graduate Teaching Assistant in SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit.

Dr Nhlanhla Msomi was a Mandela Scholar at Sussex from 1988-91, gaining a BSc in Genetics. Now working within the health sector across Africa, Dr Msomi met with Tom Baden, Professor of Neuroscience, to look at the work being done to develop low-cost health technologies. He also discussed the work of SPRU with Blanche Ting.

As an anti-apartheid activist, Dr Msomi was forced to flee South Africa in 1988, fearing for his life as the secret police and apartheid authorities searched for him. He gained a Mandela Scholarship and was able to pursue his studies at Sussex. He told Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education and Students, Professor Kelly Coate, that his education at Sussex changed his life; the modules he studied made him realise what he needed to do to help reconstruct South Africa in the post-apartheid era and shaped his career for the following 35 years.

Reflecting on his time at Sussex, Dr Msomi said: “The visit invoked the feeling of why I really valued my Sussex experience; it restored my childhood, which had been brutally snatched away by apartheid. Thank you so much for hosting me and arranging the meetings with academics, especially the scientists in neuroscience with the 3D printing. I want to continue engaging with Sussex.”

Fumani Mthembi graduated as a Mandela Scholar from Sussex in 2009 with an MA in Science, Society & Development. Returning home to South Africa, Fumani founded with partners Pele Group, which now holds three subsidiaries: Pele Green Energy, Pele Natural Energy and Knowledge Pele. The Group’s purpose is to catalyse structural change through businesses that generate power and knowledge, and Fumani is the Managing Director of KnowledgePele.

Fumani met with Blanche Ting from SPRU and Dr Melissa Lazenby (Geography, 2013) to discuss climate change in Southern Africa, and one of her former tutors, Dr Linda Waldman, Director of Teaching and Learning at IDS. Reflecting on her day at Sussex, Fumani said: “Thanks again for hosting us, it was so special! I hadn’t thought about how much it would mean to me to visit Sussex in person. The meetings were invaluable.”

Their final meeting was with Professor Coate, where they reflected on their time at Sussex, what makes a Sussex education so special, and the spirit and values that Sussex instilled in them to question and challenge injustice and create a better world.

The Mandela Scholars were hosted by the Development and Alumni Relations team (DARO).

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By: Sean Armstrong
Last updated: Monday, 8 April 2019