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UWC “Social Impactors” Empowered by the Millennium Fellowship

Author: Myolisi Gophe

Eleven University of the Western Cape Students chosen for acclaimed international programme

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(Published - 9 November 2020)

The aspirations of eight UWC students to become effective “social impactors” and to be internationally connected were boosted after they were selected to participate in the 2020 class of the Millennium Fellowship.

The group is among over 1 400 young leaders from around the globe who have joined this semester-long accelerator programme to improve their organisational, networking and leadership skills for their community upliftment initiatives.

The fellowship was established in 2013 as a partnership between the United Nations Academic Impact and the Millennium Campus Network (MCN) together with higher education institutions around the globe in supporting the Sustainable Development Goals. “It is an incubator of ideas, innovations and solutions to the problems faced by the globe, ranging from hunger to social justice, energy to quality education. They are trying to find new minds and leaders to find solutions,” explained Zwile Zungu, one of the eight fellows on campus.

This year 15 159 young leaders applied to join the Class of 2020 from 1 458 campuses across 135 nations.  Only 80 campuses worldwide (just 6%) were selected to host the 1 438 Millennium Fellows. UWC is among them and one of the only two campuses in the Southern African region to participate.

Zungu, a final-year BSc medical bioscience student, is a campus director for the UWC 2020 Class of the Millennium Fellowship along with Lwando Makinana, who is studying a Bachelor of Administration in politics and public administration. The two act as the point of contact between the MCN head office and the fellows, and are responsible for facilitating obligatory training sessions for the fellows. They have been trained leadership skills and during the programme, pass on those skills to the fellows.

“The programme is centred around teaching more skills on how to develop a Social impact project, keep it running and further, honing our networks,” Makinana explained. “The biggest thing this Fellowship has done is to help me with my self-development in terms of making a difference. For instance, I study politics, and I have always been taught how to be a leader in a political space and in theory. But being trained within  the context of how to make effective social change in a practical manner has been the biggest lesson that the fellowship has taught me and everyone involved.”

Makinana and Zungu said UWC’s involvement in the fellowship speaks to a number of the university’s strategic goals – including community engagement and internationalisation, as the fellows are also able to connect and communicate with other students from the prominent universities in the world such Stanford, Mumbai, and  Havard universities, just to name a few.

Sikelela Thalitha Gaya, one of the fellows and a final year BA student, agreed. “This fellowship has impacted me in a number of ways. First of all is the network ability it has given me, especially as a final year student. Going to the world of work, whether you have built few networks on campus, this has expanded that capacity on a global level. I have met amazing people who share similar goals and visions in helping their communities.”

The full list of UWC students in the fellowship are Lwando Makinana, Zwile Zungu, Skilela Gaya, Phalo Magqaza, Mahlubonke Ntuntwana, Zahra Mfumu, Nompumelelo Mkhize, Salizwa Mdoda, Denise Van Heerden, Xiyimo Baloyi, and Amanda Mgonyama.  They are set to graduate on 18 November.​

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