Rhodes University recently became the first South African university to win top place for the prestigious 2021 MacJannet Prize for Global Citizenship for its Nine Tenths Matric Mentoring Programme.
The University won the top spot out of a global association of 388 universities in 77 countries on six continents; all committed to developing student leaders who are actively engaged with society. The last SA university to get the award was Wits University who won 3rd place in 2014, and North-West University, which received 2nd place in 2012.
The MacJannet Prize for Global Citizenship, launched in 2009, recognises exemplary university student civic engagement programmes worldwide. The MacJannet Foundation and the Talloires Network, the global authority on university-community engagement, jointly sponsor the prize.
“Rhodes University is a significant institution in the city of Makhanda: it is the biggest local employer and serves as the educational hub around which the city functions,” said Di Hornby, Director of the Rhodes University Community Engagement Division (RUCE).
Co-managed by RUCE, local high schools, and a local Non-profit Organisation, GADRA Education, the Nine Tenths programme was conceptualised and launched in 2016 and is now in its sixth year.
The Programme responsibilities are carried out in a participatory manner by each partner based on their skillset and resources. Student volunteers apply to be part of the programme and are put through a rigorous training programme. Each student volunteer mentors two learners through the nine targeted sessions. In these sessions, mentees are introduced to appropriate goal-setting, study techniques, weekly support, and career guidance and applications to tertiary institutions. Meaningful relationships are built between mentors and mentees with a focus on providing support and encouragement.
“The name of the programme – Nine Tenths – stems from the saying that ‘Nine tenths of education is encouragement’,” explained Hornby.
In addition to providing international recognition to outstanding student initiatives for civic engagement and community service, the Prize grants a financial contribution and encourages communication among the groups to share their experiences and strengthen their effectiveness
“The COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdown meant that mentoring sessions had to continue in a virtual format. This transition was challenging, as South Africa has among the most expensive data rates in the world. The expected continuation of Nine Tenths in 2021 over virtual platforms, therefore, means that we need to overcome the obstacle of immense data costs, which this financial award could help mitigate,” Hornby said.