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History

Untitled Document

 
Timeline
 
 
1973 Founded by the Student Union, under the Presidency of Cam Matheson, and the University, under the Vice-Chancellorship of Asa Briggs. One scholar to be funded at any one time.
1976 First scholar, John Gaetsewe, arrived.
1985 The University increased the fee-waivers from one to three places. An independent charitable trust founded to administer and raise funds for the maintenance grant for the newly expanded Scholarship.
1988 Brighton premiere of Sir Richard Attenborough's film "Cry Freedom" in aid of the Scholarship. Glenys Kinnock addressed students and faculty in support of Mandela Scholarship week.
1994 First post-graduate scholars arrived
1995 Thabo Mbeki received honorary degree and met the Mandela Scholars
1999 The Robert McKenzie Trust, a long-time supporter of the Scholarship, donated £150,000 on winding up.
2000 Number of scholars reduced to 2 because of a decline in income.
 
     

 

Origins of the Scholarship

The original idea arose in 1973 from a desire to find some constructive way of opposing apartheid. Cam Matheson, then President of the Student Union, contacted friends in the South African Communist Party, and after discussion the idea of a scholarship emerged. It was arranged for World University Services to become involved since it would have been difficult for the ANC to nominate students directly without immediately placing them at risk. There were three important criteria: firstly sex was irrelevant, (to emphasise that, the scholarship was originally called the Nelson & Winnie Mandela Scholarship); secondly the choice had to be made from students involved in the struggle against apartheid (though that always had to be implicit and never explicit), and thirdly not race, colour or any other form of differentiation would be tolerated although it was clear that the broad group who had suffered were the indigenous black population and they would tend to be the ones who benefited.

After all this was agreed with the Vice-Chancellor (Asa Briggs) and members of senate, a motion was taken to a special Union General Meeting. The main speaker was Judith Mompati - a great South African woman fighter who was a leading ANC representative based in Paris at the time - and students flocked to hear her. The motion was triumphantly passed, and thus the groundwork was laid.

Subsequently the Union and the University worked together to sort out how to go about making the scheme work. Importantly, the University agreed to waive its normal entrance requirements to take account of the special circumstances of these mature students - political exiles who were found for us through underground contacts, and who did not always have the usual formal educational qualifications. In those days some came under 'travelling names' to protect their identities and shield their families at home. Because of South African agents in UK, Mandela scholars could not always be openly identified as such; all application forms had to be kept highly confidential and those of unsuccessful applicants immediately shredded.

The first scholar came in 1976. The Student Union guaranteed one maintenance grant a year out of its own income, and the University matched this with one fee waiver. The next scholar only arrived after the previous finalist left, so for the first ten years there was only one scholar on campus at a time.

 

Development of the Charitable Trust

Although there was great support both among the student body and from the University, at the beginning of the 1980s concern grew about the scholarship's long-term stability. There were many demands upon the Union's finances, and under the impact of full-cost fees for overseas students the University threatened to withdraw its fee-waiver. A new approach seemed needed, which would bring in additional funding, ensure the permanence of the project, and give it a degree of independence. Initial enquiries were made in 1981 about how to set up a charity or Trust to administer the scholarships and raise more money. Long discussions followed about how to do this without losing the important input of the Union, as well as maintaining the University's support, and it took three years, and much effort from key people such as Dan Simon, Joe Townsend and Paddy O'Reilly, to turn the idea into reality.

The year 1984/5 was a watershed for the scholarship. After a successful student campaign, aided by letters of support from a number of eminent people, the University decided to increase the fee-waiver from one to three places. In February 1985 the 'Nelson and Winnie Mandela Scholarship Fund' (later abbreviated to the Mandela Fund) was established, with Lord Briggs as President, and Lord (then Sir Richard) Attenborough, the university Pro-Chancellor, as one of its first patrons.

Other patrons as well as donations for the scholarship came mostly as the result of a vigorous letter writing campaign by Isador Caplan (Dan Simon's grandfather) to his many contacts. In this way we obtained such patrons as Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, Sir Peter Pears, Anthony Rampton OBE (philanthropist), Prof. Donald Court (the eminent paediatrician) and Prof. Donald Mitchell (emeritus professor of music at Sussex). More letter writing from Dan himself brought letters of support from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Dr Allan Boesak (then President of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches), Edward Kennedy (US Senator), the Rt. Hon Malcolm Fraser (former Prime Minister of Australia), and Norman Willis (the General Secretary of the TUC).

Funds continued to come in steadily from writing to individuals, rattling tins on campus, covenanted payments from faculty and staff, and many other fund-raising activities from within and without the University. When Joe Townsend, a member of Council and the Fund's Treasurer for many years, was Mayor of Brighton, he nominated the Fund as one of the mayoral charities. St. Paul's Girls School maintained a link with us for several years, including donations from the then High Mistress. In 1987 the Mandela Scholarship Student Support Group was formed. The Group's Chair, and other members, attended Trustees' meetings, and several later became Trustees. The energy and dedication of this group did an enormous amount to keep the attention of the student body and staff focussed on the Scholarship. They arranged gigs, cultural evenings, and musical events; they even put on plays; they organised annually a sponsored fancy dress hitchhike to Amsterdam in the Easter vacation. During the 1988 Mandela Scholarship week Glenys Kinnock addressed the students and staff.

All these activities were amazingly successful. One of the high points came when they showed Sir Richard Attenborough's film film 'Cry Freedom' on campus as a special fund-raising event in 1989/90. Although Sir Richard could not be present, Donald and Wendy Woods came and spoke to a packed-out and emotional audience in A2. The film had already been shown in Brighton at a charity premiere in aid of the scholarship, when both Sir Richard and the Woods were present, and the current Scholars were introduced to the audience from the stage.

With Mandela's release in 1990 the fires that had fuelled all this activity gradually died down, though not all at once. There were still volunteers willing to set up Scholarship desks at the Union's Societies Fair, at University Graduation, and most importantly, at Registration, where they cajoled first years into signing pledges dedicating part or all of their caution money to the Scholarship. This scheme, administered by the University, raised several thousand pounds for the Fund each year until it was eventually phased out in the late 1990s.

 

Adapting to a different scenario

When the ANC was elected to government in 1994, the Scholarship Fund, with the assent of the University, responded to the wishes of the black leadership in South Africa and Namibia, and gradually replaced undergraduates with post-graduate students studying one or two-year programmes in subjects related to reconstruction and development.

For a time the Fund continued to receive enough income each year to meet its commitments. Surplus funds had been invested and brought in some interest, there was the annual Student Union grant, regular though declining donations from loyal supporters, and top-up funding from special appeals, such as the memorial appeal set up by his family after the death of Isador Caplan. Whenever there was the danger of having to dip into reserves, there were unexpectedly generous gifts from other Trusts (see appendix for list) and individual anonymous donors. In particular, the Richard Attenborough Trust and the Robert McKenzie Charitable Trust helped make good any shortfalls for a number of years. In 1999 the latter wound up their Trust and gave the MSF £150,000 - thus more than doubling its capital reserves. For a moment it seemed as though a fourth scholarship would be possible.

However, the base of student support, which had been the MSF's great strength in earlier days, was gradually weakening. It seemed as though the anti-apartheid cause was won and students became less and less able to spare time, energy and attention from their increasing need to support themselves and their growing burden of debt. It may also be that undergraduates, who had been the most responsive sector of the student membership, could not relate so directly to the idea of post-graduate scholarships, which they themselves were unlikely to achieve.

Over the years, the Fund has received wonderful support from across the whole University community. It found friends among successive Student Union Executives, among the faculty and support staff, in the University administration, on Senate and in Council. For years scholars were assured of pre-arranged campus accommodation through the goodwill of the Housing Office; the Admissions Office worked patiently to cope with idiosyncratic admissions procedures; porters made special arrangements to help welcome new scholars; the Union used to collect arrivals from Heathrow at horrendously unsociable hours, and in one way or another, down the years most of the staff in the Students Union have found themselves working on one aspect or other of the organisation. The Meeting House has raised money for the Fund, and among the campus Trade Unions the UNISON branch has been particularly supportive.

We can be proud of our past, and of the support from so many people, who have shown in this way their dedication to the fight against apartheid and its many evil legacies.

Edited by Janet Stuart out of contributions from Adam Gaines (President, Student Union 1980-1) Cam Matheson (President, 1973-4), Bernice Ryan (member of Student Union Staff 1973-93, Administrative Trustee 1989-93, Trust Administrator 1993-9) Daniel Simon (Vice-President Finance 1986-7)