University of Pretoria: UP celebrates students and staff named among M&G Young 200 South Africans

Each year over the last 15 years the Mail & Guardian Young 200 South Africans list has celebrated 200 young people who create a positive, tangible impact on society, with this year being no different. There were over 5 300 nominations submitted to the publication, proving that, contrary to popular belief, the youth is committed to making South Africa, and the continent, a better place for all.

The announcement event took place on 24 June 2021 and was held virtually, in line with COVID-19 restrictions. This year’s theme was Resilience and Innovation for Excellence. There were 14 categories ranging from civil society to health, with a special category added dubbed ‘the frontliners’ aimed at celebrating the efforts of young people working to save and change lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the years the University of Pretoria (UP) has had staff members, students and alumni featured on the list, furthering the University’s aim to produce citizens who are not only suitably qualified, but also committed to using their skillsets in service of the communities they live and work in.

This year’s UP honourees include researcher and lecturer Raikane Seretlo, who was named in the Health category, and social work masters student Lisette Oelofse, 24, who was named in the Civil Society category.

UP-aligned honourees in previous years have included P&H Boutique owners Papa and Hetty Boachie-Yiadom, who appeared on the 2019 list in the Business and Entrepreneurship category; Dr Vukosi Marivate, chair of data science and the principal investigator at the Data Science for Social Impact Research Group (DSFSI) at UP, who appeared in the COVID-19 Heroes Editor’s Choice category in 2020; Dr Taryn Bond-Barnard, senior lecturer and researcher, who was nominated in the Education category in 2019; Khuraisha Patel, human rights lawyer and legal researcher, who appeared in the Justice and Law category in 2018; and former Student Representative Council President David Kabwa, who appeared in the Politics and Government category in 2020.

Senior manager of Alumni Relations at UP Samantha Castle emphasised that these honourees are suitable mentors to other young people around them on university campuses, schools and other sections of society.

“When young people see that ‘someone as young as I am, who comes from a similar background to mine is making a difference’, they too will be inspired to work hard and contribute in whatever way they can. At UP, we encourage these young people to not only act as mentors on campus both to alumni and current students, but to also share their unique stories as guest speakers at UP-hosted events,” Castle said.

UP Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe said the importance of a list such as the M&G 200 Young South Africans is that it celebrates young people making a difference, to encourage them and to put a spotlight on the work they do as well.

“It is important that we celebrate and commend young people who are making a difference because our collective development as a society lies in the hands of the youth – they are the future. South Africa’s institutions of higher learning are important spaces for the preparation of each new generation of trailblazing innovators and leaders. At UP we empower our students and staff through high-quality education and cutting-edge research that makes positive transformative impact.”

He added that it is through collaboration across sectors, including the various projects and initiatives that these young people are a part of, that meaningful change can be made in the country and the continent.

“At UP, we aim to be the number one university in Africa and compete with other universities globally. UP does not compromise when it comes to quality because a university should not just give out degrees and act like an ATM for qualifications; it should be more than that. It should use knowledge and human capital to change the situation on the ground, creating knowledge and research,” Prof Kupe said.

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