You are black excellence, vice-chancellor-elect Mamokgethi Phakeng tells Mastercard Foundation Scholars

16 May 2018 - 15:30

“Your blackness is amazing," Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng welcomes the Mastercard Foundation Scholars.

“Our differences, or what we perceive as flaws, are what set us apart,” Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, UCT’s deputy vice-chancellor for research and internationalisation, who succeeds Dr Max Price as vice chancellor in July 2018, told the Mastercard Foundation Scholars at their welcome during April. 

This year, UCT welcomes 43 new Mastercard Foundation Scholars through its doors: nine undergraduates and 34 postgraduates.

African excellence

“The way you think – even though it’s different to the way other people think – your questions, your curiosities: they matter,” Phakeng said at the event. “Those different questions that you have, that nobody asks and that you think, but never ask. They make you stand out.

“You think differently, because your experiences have been different.”

Phakeng, who was speaking about black and African excellence, highlighted the importance of accepting yourself and loving who you are – as you are – and being your best for the benefit of yourself, as well as your communities and all other black and African people.

“You are going to show up with black excellence. Making us proud. Making yourselves proud. Leaving a legacy for other black people who look like you and can feel encouraged to take on bigger tasks because you have conquered your big task.”

She went on to say that, “as Mastercard scholars, you have been selected to lead this continent to great things.”


“The reason we accepted you, why we pursued you and offered you this Mastercard opportunity, it’s because we saw the strength in you.”


Who is a Mastercard Foundation Scholar?

The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program is built upon the premise that all young people, no matter their starting point in life, should have the opportunity to obtain a quality education and pursue their aspirations. To this end, the program provides education and leadership development for tens of thousands of bright, young leaders who are overcoming hardships, and who share a deep personal commitment to changing the world around them and improving the lives of others.

Dr Beata Mtyingizana, director of the International Academic Programmes Office, addresses the audience.

In her welcome to the scholars, Dr Beata Mtyingizana, director of the International Academic Programmes Office, told them, “Mastercard said to me that you are the talented ones because you are the ones who are going to make a difference in your communities. You are the ones that are going to take hold of the leadership element that has been entrusted to you by Mastercard. 

“Being at UCT is amazing: I look around and there is this diversity of cultures, different backgrounds.”


Mastercard Foundation Scholars at UCT, who have been carefully selected, receive comprehensive scholarships, which include fees, accommodation, books and stipends. Through mentoring, leadership training, academic and life skills support, the scholars are equipped with the knowledge and competencies to contribute to economic growth and social development in their own countries and communities.                      

“Being at UCT is such a big opportunity for me, because it provides me with strong knowledge and a good background,” Danielle Goho, a Mastercard Foundation Scholar from Cote d’Ivoire in the first year of her master’s in chemical engineering. “The knowledge that we get at UCT is renowned because it is one of the best schools in Africa.”

A few of the Mastercard Foundation Scholars (from left to right): Danielle Goho, Takudzwanashe Mudzuri, Mixo Ngwenya, Carol Masingi, Thapelo Hlongwane, Asisipho Mnyanzeli.

“Being at UCT is amazing: I look around and there is this diversity of cultures, different backgrounds,” enthused Jaspher Chifagume, a first-year chemical engineering student from Zimbabwe. “I also like the freedom, you can interact with anyone anytime.”

UCT needs you

In her speech, Phakeng also explained the role of black excellence in raising the profile of black people.

“It’s also about self-love, that we as black people – after many years of oppression and marginalisation – we can stand up and say, we do matter,” she explained. “That you don’t have to be something else to be beautiful, to be smart, to achieve great things.

“Your blackness is amazing. It’s great, it’s beautiful, it’s wonderful and we need it here at UCT.”

Story by Lisa Boonzaier Photos by Saien Govender