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The Mandela Rhodes Scholarship

By Mary Silolezya Simujayangombe

In our new ‘Ambassador Advice’ series, our Africademics Scholarship Ambassadors share their experience and advice for scholarship applicants in and from Africa. This week Mary Silolezya Simujayangombe from Zambia, a Mandela Rhodes Scholarship alumna, introduces the programme and shares valuable tips for future applicants.

General Information

The Mandela Rhodes Foundation offers young African leaders aged 19 to 29, from any African country, an opportunity to become part of Nelson Mandela’s legacy of transformative impact. The scholarship allows you to study any postgraduate programme at Honours or Master’s level, except MBAs, at any South African university, and the programme is fully funded.

Scholars experience a life-changing opportunity for personal growth through a scholarship that combines financial support, covering travel costs, tuition fees and living costs, with a leadership programme that challenges and grows your leadership potential while connecting you to other young African changemakers who want to use their talents to serve Africa.

The foundation looks for young Africans who have completed a first degree with above average academic results, and who demonstrate the potential to embody the founding principles of leadership, entrepreneurship, education and reconciliation.

In order to qualify for the programme, you must have already assumed leadership roles and made an impact on your campus or community, as well show potential for growth by being curious about doing the personal, internal work of leadership.

You will be required to submit not only your academic certificates and transcripts but also a CV, personal statement, three references and an essay that answers a question asked. 

Scholarship Application Process 

When I considered applying for this scholarship it was because of the leadership programme and a chance of being part of Nelson Mandela’s legacy. I also liked the fact that I had the option to apply for ANY degree program at ANY of the South African universities which gave me a very wide choice of options.

The application process was entirely online, I didn’t have to send hard copies to the foundation, which made it easy to apply. However, I still had to apply to the particular university I wanted to study at. This was a challenge for me because I discovered that as an international student I had to have a SAQA certification of my degree before I could apply to my university of choice.

I was already in round two of the selection process when it became clear that my university admission will take longer to process, meaning that if I qualified for the scholarship I’d miss the opportunity. So I sought assistance from an alumna whom I found on one of the Social Media platforms. She connected me to the admission office of Monash South Africa (Monash University) where I ended up applying because they had a more flexible application process and had a very similar program to the one at the public university I had initially chosen. 

From this lesson, I inform prospective scholarship applicants to begin their university application much earlier since the scholarship is offered annually and successful applicants can only take it up when they submit their confirmed course admission.

You can find out more on the scholarship application process at

Personal Experience and advice

My scholarship application was successful and I moved from Zambia to South Africa for the first time. Both the foundation and the university were very helpful in getting me settled in.

The leadership development programme of the scholarship was beyond my expectations, it really dealt with self-leadership; how I can be secure in who I am as an individual and bring myself to the table, knowing that I don’t have all the answers but I can make a contribution in my own unique way.

I learnt that leadership comes with the responsibility for the wellness of others. Some skills that I learnt during the programme were active listening, creativity, effective feedback and empathy. We also did quite a lot of group work in a multicultural setup. This enriched the experience even more as the group consisted of individuals from different African countries, of different races and beliefs, and with a shared value of the Africa continent.

The scholarship introduces you to this wide network of people who have been and are working towards a great Africa in their individual spaces, not only in your cohort but in the alumni body as well. The foundation has deliberate platforms where past and current cohorts meet to interact and get to know one another, one of those being the mentorship programme where alumni members mentor current scholars and fellow alumni.

I encourage other young people to apply for the Mandela Rhodes Scholarship if they want to develop themselves as African leaders because the programme is pan-african. You will have support throughout your postgraduate journey, you will experience community as you tap into the relationships of the Mandela Rhodes family, you will collaborate and co-create with a network of impactful young leaders.

You will also have an opportunity to apply for The Shaun Johnson Memorial Scholarship for doctoral studies in the UK which is available exclusively to Mandela Rhodes Alumni.

The Mandela Rhodes Scholarship applications for 2022 are open right now, and I advise that you go through the FAQs that are available on the programme website, before you start the application process.