Website wins award

Lena Gronbach

A website started by a UCT student to tell of opportunities for training and funding for studies has won a prestigious award, a scholarship and participation in a global programme.

Lena Gronbach, a second-year PhD candidate in UCT’s department of sociology, started Africademics in 2019.

As a German national, she struggled to find funding to help her study in South Africa. But while searching, she came across many programmes, scholarships and opportunities for African students and decided she would share her finds with peers.

Africademics started as a Facebook page, but now it is a website and it has a presence on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp.

Since launching, Ms Gronbach has shared more than 1 000 scholarship opportunities, which includes funding for both undergraduate and postgraduate studies, as well as study-abroad opportunities and research fellowships.

Her initiative has now won the social engagement prize awarded by The German Academic Scholarship Foundation to scholarship holders who run social initiatives.

The award included a cash prize, a fund-raising campaign through the foundation’s alumni network, a coaching weekend, a formal award ceremony in 2021 and ongoing mentoring and support.

Ms Gronbach said she would use the prize money to expand the Africademics university ambassador programme, share more scholarships and opportunities, host information-sharing events and offer webinars and personal support for students who wish to apply for scholarships.

“Receiving the award has reinforced my drive for more equality and opportunities in the field of higher education,” she said.

The second feather in Africademics’ hat is the Start Social Scholarship, an annual coaching and mentoring programme for social start-ups that is run under the patronage of German chancellor Angela Merkel. Every year 100 initiatives are selected for the first round of coaching, and the best projects will receive additional prizes in 2021.

The third honour is the recent announcement that Africademics has been selected as one of the participants of the Global Goals Lab, a networking and qualification programme for social initiatives working towards the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs).

“Participating in the Global Goals Lab has given me the opportunity to connect with other social initiatives that work towards the SDGs. Through the current collaboration phase of the programme, we will be able to expand our network, share experiences and learn from the successes (and failures) of other organisations,” Ms Gronbach said.

The achievements had given her the recognition and support she needed to take Africademics to the next level, she added.