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SU to honour six for contributions to education, activism, development and research
Author: Corporate Communication Division/Afdeling Korporatiewe Kommunikasie
Published: 23/10/2019

​​​Stellenbosch University (SU) will confer honorary doctorates on six remarkable individuals in recognition of their extraordinary efforts to change the world for the better in their respective fields, namely the performing arts, economics, higher education, women's health, equal opportunities for people with disabilities, and rural development.

Their contributions to society through education, activism and research also embody the values underpinning SU's Vision 2040 – compassion, respect, excellence, accountability and equity.

The recipients of the honorary doctorates are:

  • Ms Nasima Badsha grew up in South Africa and the United Kingdom, and has made outstanding contributions to South African higher education over a period spanning more than 30 years. She did pioneering work in creating access, equity and social justice in the higher education system and played a key role in conceptualising a new higher education dispensation in South Africa.
  • Ms Rachel Kachaje from Malawi is a well-known activist with over 25 years' experience in advocating for equal opportunities and rights for persons with disabilities in Malawi, the rest of Africa and across the globe. Kachaje, who contracted polio at the age of three, held high office in several disability and human rights-related organisations and committees, and is also a former Minister of Disability and Elderly Affairs in the Malawian government.  
  • Dr Bonisile John Kani, born in Port Elizabeth, is being recognised for his 50-year career in the performing arts and playwriting, not only in South Africa, but globally as well. Throughout his career, he has shown an unwavering commitment to ensuring that young people have access to the performing arts, and to using the arts as a tool to educate, develop communities and give a voice to the oppressed. Recent international successes include roles in the films Black Panther (2018), The Lion King (2019) and Murder Mystery (2019).  
  • Prof Quarraisha Abdool Karim is a prominent National Research Foundation A-rated* South African scientist, epidemiologist who specialises in infectious disease, and associate scientific director of the Centre for AIDS Research in South Africa (CAPRISA). She is being honoured for her commitment to research and education in the field of women's health in Africa and globally, particularly her successful efforts in increasing the national and international focus on HIV, and her pivotal role in HIV prevention research.
  • Dr Uma Lele, born in Maharashtra, India, is being honoured for her leadership in the theory and practice of rural development globally. In a career that has spanned almost five decades, her body of work has been characterised by efforts to influence public policy through rigorous empirical research. Lele, president-elect of the International Association of Agricultural Economists (the first female to hold this office), is undoubtedly the leading rural development scholar of her generation.
  • Prof Leonard Wantchekon from Benin is so committed to improving economics training in West Africa that he founded his own university – the African School of Economics (ASE). Besides serving as ASE president, Wantchekon is also professor of Politics, International Affairs and Economics at Princeton in the USA. He had to overcome many hurdles to become an academic leader in his field. He is being acknowledged for his immense contribution to equipping the next generation of scholars with the skills, networks and belief in themselves to rise above their circumstances and become leading academics who are able to change the world for the better.

SU's honorary doctorates are a way of acknowledging the remarkable work of individuals who are regarded as role models and an inspiration to Stellenbosch graduates. The honorary degrees will be conferred at the December 2019 graduation ceremonies and those in March and April 2020.


*An A-rating by the National Research Foundation recognises academics who are considered global leaders in their respective fields for the quality and impact of recent research outputs.