Student receives Mandela Rhodes scholarship and Rector’s award

Elnari Potgieter (22), an honours student in the Political Science Department, has had many reasons to smile during the past two weeks. A week ago she received the wonderful news that she is one of 23 students in Africa to receive a Mandela Rhodes scholarship for 2012.

Elnari Potgieter recently received the Mandela Rhodes scholarship as well as the Rector’s Award for Excellence in Service. (Hennie Rudmann, SSFD)

Elnari is one of three students at Stellenbosch University (SU) on whom this honour was bestowed. The other two students are Matthew de la Hey and Mario Mark Ruiters.

And if that is not enough to get excited about, she also received the Rector’s Award for Excellence in Service from SU on 12 October this year.

Elnari is one of eight students of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences who received awards at this event. The other students who received awards in the division Rector’s Award for Academic Excellence were Abri de Swardt, Meg Moodie, Sonja Wessels, Dylan Tabisher, Andrea Palk and Marizanne Knoesen, while Barry Ross received the SU medal for Top Master’s Student in the faculty. Lisa Rothkegel received a Rector’s Award for Outstanding Leadership.

Elnari will register for a master’s degree in International Studies at SU in 2012. She currently works as a tutor in the Political Science Department while completing her honours studies.

“Both achievements are well deserved and a reward for outstanding academic and academic support work (including that of departmental tutor) together with a love for humanity that is evident in everything she does. Congratulations, Elnari, we are proud of you!” said Prof Anthony Leysens, chair of the Department.

Elnari has been involved in several university structures in various ways over the years. She was, for instance, a house committee member of Irene women’s residence, where she also served as mentor, has worked as a journalist at Die Matie newspaper, and is a member of the organisation STOP Human Trafficking. This organisation focuses on aspects such as awareness of human trafficking among primary and high school learners and also offers accommodation to victims of human trafficking. Elnari is also actively involved in church activities, such as mentoring at first-year camps of the Mother Church Stellenbosch and in outreaches to Mozambique, Transkei and Msinga, as well as various community service-orientated societies.

To be selected as one of the Mandela Rhodes scholars, Elnari had to attend a few interviews, write essays and compete with students across Africa. Candidates must also prove that they support the four values of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation in everything they undertake. These values are leadership, reconciliation, the promotion of education as a way to advance human development, and entrepreneurship.

Elnari is especially grateful to everyone who has supported her over the years. “Friends and family and even enemies can shape a person. My biggest source of strength was God, and this is my reason for hoping and for giving,” said Elnari.

Already on cloud nine, Elnari also recently heard that she ended third in the Beeld national “Dink Na” essay competition for 2012. Her topic focused on creative solutions to government failure in South Africa.