The UJ vice chancellor says he was was inspired by his grandmother to launch a scholarship for underprivileged women. 

A postgraduate scholarship targeting women from underprivileged backgrounds was launched by the University of Johannesburg vice chancellor, Professor Tshilidzi Marwala, in late April 2019.

The Tshianeo Marwala Scholarship, named after Marwala’s late grandmother, Tshianeo Marwala, whom he said was the first engineer he had ever known. “My grandmother made pottery and in the process she had to make fire to prepare for the production of her clay pots. This is the same process I used during my Master’s degree to determine the quality of a good or bad engine and this is what inspired the scholarship,” said Marwala, a professor of systems and control engineering.  The funds for the scholarship have come from a private donation from Marwala’s family. “My family made a private donation of R350 000 for the scholarship and there are other donors”, Marwala said.

The scholarship is aimed at women who are pursuing studies that focus on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) at postgraduate level. Marwala said he felt that these women are the ones who remain marginalised in institutions of higher learning and later in life in key economic sectors.

“Attracting young people from poorer backgrounds into university remains a serious challenge for our country and industries”, said Marwala.

“Government funding alone will not alleviate the problem of student funding so I hope that this scholarship will make a difference to those who wish to further their studies,” he added.

Professor Brian Armstrong, chair in digital business at Wits Business School, described the fourth industrial revolution as an era of digitalization and industry that affords new opportunities and capabilities. For this reason, Armstrong belives that scholarships in this area are critically important.

“The focus needs not to be so much on the tech but the impact of that tech. The fourth industrial revolution in South Africa is people-centred,” Armstrong said.

The scholarship will cover courses at UJ in various fields of engineering such as metallurgy, applied mathematics and thermodynamics. According to Marwala, the qualification criteria and the number of people who will benefit from the scholarship are yet to be determined. It is expected though that students will be able to apply and submit their research proposals later this year.

FEATURED IMAGE: Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Johannesburg (UJ), Professor Tshilidzi Marwala. Photo: Provided