“This is another of those historic moments when we revisit the past in order to create a different, more just future," Stellenbosch University (SU) Rector and Vice-Chancellor Prof Wim de Villiers told the second group of Matie students to receive the University's Vlakte Bursary since its inception in 2015.
He was speaking at a celebratory event held in the Memory Room of the SU Archive on the Stellenbosch Campus on Friday afternoon (8 September).
De Villiers, who said that the Vlakte Bursary is very close to his heart, announced the establishment of the Fund at his inauguration in April 2015 as a means of restitution and development. Residents of Die Vlakte, an area close to the town centre of Stellenbosch, were mostly coloured people who were forcibly removed in the 1960s under the Group Areas Act.
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“While the Group Areas Act and forced removals in Stellenbosch gave rise to much bitterness, it did not succeed in demolishing the awareness that in this town, we all share a history that cannot be easily disentangled. These days the University is working hard to become more inclusive, and both our student and staff bodies are slowly but surely becoming more diverse. We are also reaching out to the community to close the gap between us," De Villiers said.
This year's new recipients are Kristen Adams, a Masters Degree student in Music; Ashley Solomons, a second year BA (Visual Communication Design) student; Aqeelah Hendrickse, a first year BA (Social Work) student; Ethan du Toit, a first year BCom (Financial Accounting) student and Daniel Adams, a first year MB, ChB (Medicine) student. Two of the 2016 recipients, Melissa Hector (MB, ChB) and Wesley Gabriels (BA), again received the bursary this year.
“It makes us proud to represent our families from Die Vlakte. It's an honour to receive the bursary and to make more of our studies," Kristen Adams said who also spoke at the event.
“It was quite overwhelming, the history, and especially to come into this room (the Memory Room) displaying the entire history of Die Vlakte that I have not spoken about with my family. It is quite emotional to know what my grandparents went through and to read there on the wall that they have been kicked out by students. It is heart-breaking."
“The bursary is an opportunity for us to honour our grandparents. It is taking a huge weight off our shoulders to be able to study," said Daniel Adams, Kristen's brother.
Ashley Solomons says she is thankful for the bursary and it is a tremendous help. “It is a nice feeling to keep the legacy going and honour your grandparents. I know of the struggle they went through and it is so evident in their lives still now. I do not think the bursary makes up for the hardship that people went through but it is an action in the right direction that people can benefit from."
Aqeelah Hendrickse is thankful for the bursary as it is paying for all her studies. Her father and grandfather were born in the Vlakte.
Prospective students who lived in the area, their children and grandchildren can apply for the bursaries. The bursary covers basic class fees for the minimum length of the student's chosen programme.
A community committee assists with the verification of applicants' association with Die Vlakte, and the allocation criteria were applied by the Bursary Committee consisting of three members from the community and three SU staff members.
Photo: Prof Wim de Villiers and Kirsten Adams (Photo credit: Anton Jordaan)