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What is the RFET?

What is the RFET?

The aims of the Ruth First Educational Trust

  • To enable southern African students from historically disadvantaged backgrounds to undertake postgraduate study at the University of Durham.
  • To educate and inform students and staff at the University, as well as residents of the area, about educational and development issues in southern Africa.
  • To raise funds to support these activities.

Southern Africa is defined for this purpose as comprising the following countries: Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Republic of South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Benefits to southern Africa and Durham

  • Scholarships make an important contribution towards social, educational and economic development in the region. In addition to their value to individuals they have wide developmental impact, within and beyond southern Africa.
  • Ruth First Scholars have played positive leadership roles in their communities and are chosen for their active commitment to good causes, as well as for their academic ability.
  • Many former Ruth First Scholars now hold important positions in the public and private sectors in southern Africa, and have become inspirational role models for young people.
  • This is what Archbishop Desmond Tutu said in 1998 about the value of the Trust’s work:
I want to congratulate and encourage those who instituted the Ruth First Educational Trust. The damage wrought by apartheid on generations of black students cannot be quantified; it has been horrendous. The opportunity offered by Durham University to South African students is the opportunity of a lifetime. I am thrilled that this offer for postgraduate study at such a prestigious institution is available. Please keep the door open. Every opportunity, every avenue, for South Africans to study abroad should be seized with both hands. Education is the key to our country’s future. You are helping our young people to reach their potential and and take their place in the wider world, and for that I am deeply grateful.

The history of the Trust

  • The Durham University South African Scholarship Fund was set up in 1964-65 by students and staff of the University of Durham. Funds were raised in order to “bring to Durham one of the many South African young men and women who are fully qualified to benefit from a higher education but who are denied it for purely racial reasons”, and over the next three decades a dozen students from disadvantaged backgrounds in southern Africa successfully took Bachelor’s degrees at Durham.
  • After the death of Ruth First in 1982, the Fund was renamed in her honour. Many of the students supported by the Ruth First Memorial Studentship Fund came to Durham from exile and could only return to South Africa after the end of apartheid.
  • In 1993 the Fund became a charity, the Ruth First Educational Trust. At the same time, the ending of apartheid led to a change of policy. Although it was clear that there was a continuing need for international help to contribute to the development of a fully democratic South Africa, many more opportunities were becoming available for students from disadvantaged backgrounds to study for first degrees within South Africa. Since 1994, therefore, the Trust has funded one scholarship per year for a taught Master’s course.
  • In 2007, the Trust decided to widen the geographical scope of the Scholarship to include applicants from other countries in southern Africa (Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe). While opportunities for postgraduate study have improved significantly in the Republic of South Africa in recent years, prospects in other parts of the region remain much more difficult.
  • Former Ruth First Scholars are putting specialist qualifications in geographical information systems, international law, education, English, theology, counselling, social work, particle physics, chemistry, business and international politics to good use in education, business, research, public administration and community work.
Updated January 2009 Mike Thompson
[email protected]
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