Stellies bursaries for descendants of local forced removals victims

The bursary was established for the benefit of children whose families were removed from Die Vlakte, an area close to the Stellenbosch town centre, …

Cape Town – Half a million rand has been allocated to the Stellenbosch University Die Vlakte Bursary Fund as a means of restitution.

The bursary was established for the benefit of children whose families were removed from Die Vlakte, an area close to the Stellenbosch town centre, during the Group Areas Act.

The neighbourhood – situated between Muller, Bird and Joubert streets and Merriman Avenue – was home to mostly coloured people.

The university said that at the time, it “did not protest”, and later built on the expropriated land.

On Monday, the university announced the first recipients of the fund.

Die Vlakte bursary recipients: Wesley Gabriels, Cleo Lawrence, Professor Wim de Villiers, Griezelda Stuurman, Brad Poole and Melissa Hector. (Picture: Anton Jordaan)

Stellenbosch University spokesperson Martin Viljoen said the funds were received from the Harry Crossley Foundation, which awarded it to Rector Professor Wim de Villiers for exceptional leadership in 2015.

De Villiers said the establishment of the fund was one of his first acts as rector and was close to his heart.

“I have decided to allocate the donation I’ve received from the Harry Crossley Foundation towards this fund in an effort to bolster it and put us in a financial position to award even more bursaries in future,” he said.

“Higher education is a potent form of empowerment, and thus creating opportunities for students in financial need is a priority for me.”

The bursary covers basic class fees for the minimum length of the course.

The students selected were Wesley Gabriels and Cleo Lawrence, both first-year students in the social sciences; Melissa Hector, a fourth year medical student; Brad Poole, a second year engineering student; and Griezelda Stuurman, a honours student in education.

A community committee was established to verify the applicants’ lineage from Die Vlakte, where after the bursary committee’s allocation criteria were applied.

A maximum of five bursaries will be awarded annually to those who lived in the area, their children and grandchildren.  Current and prospective undergraduate students may apply, as well as applicants who will be registering for a first postgraduate programme, the university said.

The Memory Room was opened in the Wilcocks Building in 2013 and is a “permanent contemporary exhibition space depicting the suppressed history of people of Die Vlakte”.

This project was the brainchild of the late rector and vice chancellor Professor Russel Botman and originated from an apology in 2012 offered by student leaders in Dagbreek men’s residence for the role they played in the Battle of Andringa Street, when white students attacked coloured residents of the adjacent Vlakte and damaged their residences in 1940, the statement reads.

This was followed by a meeting between students and former residents of Andringa Street at Botman’s house.

“Forced removals from Die Vlakte under the Group Areas Act also resulted in the Lückhoff School in Banghoek Road being given to the university. The Lückhoff School has since been rededicated to the local community in 2007 and houses various community organisations in addition to the university’s Division for Social Impact,” the university said.

“In 2008 and 2009 a permanent photographic exhibition was installed in the building to give recognition to old boys and girls of the school who had become prominent role-players in South African society.”