What do you get someone on a very special milestone birthday? If that someone is Prof Wim de Villiers, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of Stellenbosch University (SU) - a donation to a bursary fund close to his heart will do!
Prof De Villiers, who will be celebrating his 60th birthday on 26 September, is asking friends, colleagues, staff and alumni to skip the lovely gifts and instead make a donation to the Die Vlakte Bursary Fund.
This Fund was established at his inauguration in 2015 as a direct response to student requests and a further sign of redress that the university had committed itself to at the turn of the 21st century.
"Higher education is a potent form of empowerment, and thus creating opportunities for students in financial need is a priority for me. I am therefore pledging my 60th birthday to the Die Vlakte Bursary Fund and asking all of you to make a financial contribution on my GivenGain Page.
"Die Vlakte Bursary Fund has been one of my highlights as Rector and Vice Chancellor of Stellenbosch University. Four years ago, I announced that the University will be creating a bursary fund for former residents of Die Vlakte and their descendants. Why was this necessary? To right a wrong that took place in the 1960s," he says.
This fund benefits a maximum of five students per year, descendants of those forcibly removed in the 1960s from an area close to the town centre of Stellenbosch, known as Die Vlakte. This was a neighbourhood in the area between Muller, Bird, and Joubert Streets and Merriman Avenue, where the residents were mostly coloured people, and they were forcibly removed under the Group Areas Act. At the time, the University did not protest.
In October 2018, the University paid tribute to the people of Die Vlakte when the building which now houses the University's Africa Open Institute for Music was named after Pieter Okkers, the man who originally built it as a home for his family.
Photo: Prof Wim de Villiers congratulate the first five Die Vlakte bursary recipients. (Photographer: Anton Jordaan)