Sizwe Mkwanazi (University of Johannesburg)
Am I eligible? This was the first question I asked myself in the year 2012 when I saw a short notice about the Abe Bailey Travel Bursary outside the UJ student affairs office. I prepared my application not meeting the eligibility criteria very well as a second year undergraduate student. My application was not the best I could have submitted and I knew this. When the 2012 feedback on applications was sent to me I wasn't surprised that I did not make but the experience of preparing the application was what I needed.
In 2013 I began early to prepare my application, from getting my references organised and to binding my application portfolio as well as submitting earlier than the stipulated deadline. In this year I was convinced that I met the eligibility criteria and I got invited for the interview as a result. I was working as a Tutor in Entrepreneurship at UJ, also editing a student's newspaper the then UJ Observer and doing my final year in the National Diploma of Entrepreneurship. I was actively engaged with the work of The Youth For Action Foundation during this time and also in the Enactus programme.
The thought of visiting an overseas country never existed in my mind and it was not something I was actively seeking. I was more concerned about what I was doing and also completing my qualification. This is not because I was born and raised in a rural community or a family that could not afford a simple holiday in our local town but it was my immediate concern to finish my studies and hopefully be of help to my family. But this changed when I got an e-mail from UJ student affairs that I would have a chance to travel out of the country. I couldn't contain my excitement and the thought that I was the first in my family to travel abroad as well as in my community. I also remembered though that if my grandparents, in particular, were not denied by unjust systems an opportunity to be educated, they would have been able to have exceptional economic opportunities which would have enabled them to at least afford a cheap holiday out of the country.
The Abe Bailey travel bursary experience changed my view of the world and raised my aspirations. It is also this experience that gave me life-time friends. The Abe experience was confidence building, enriching, intensive and fun. The time spent talking about topics of interest and the platform of sharing by the bursars was an enriching experience. I also remember being challenged about my recycling enterprise, it was fantastic and this helped me review some practices in my small venture. The intensity was overwhelming at times and I had to pay fines for being late, a very interesting way to get people to be on time. Being in Cape Town and learning about the history of Sir Abe Bailey and Cecil John Rhodes was an important reflection for me to understand how far we have come as a country. But I quickly made a decision that I wouldn't want to be an imperialist entrepreneur.
My highlights of the tour were spending good time in Cape Town and having a chance to visit Robben Island. Making good life-time friends with Helene-Mari and Nomfundo was the best thing ever I got from the tour and getting to know the exceptional other bursars was great. The London Tube journeys and singing 'Shosholoza' was really special and the jokes by Michael got us laughing from time-to-time. Visiting and meeting the mayor of St Albans, spending time at Capital firm (talking entrepreneurship), Edinburgh and finally The Burn were indeed great highlights. The programme is fantastic.
The Abe Bailey experience impacted my view of education and it immensely influenced my decision to take on postgraduate studies. In the journey of postgraduate studies I began to publish my research work and slowly discovered my calling for service in academia. I was appointed as lecturer, got the Mandela Rhodes Scholarship and later the Rhodes scholarship.
It all began with one experience, the Abe Bailey Travel bursary experience.