Achievements of the Bursary Programme

The national bursary programme of the Institute dates back to 1935, and the thousands of recipients since then have served the country in almost every field of endeavour. Among the most famous was South Africa’s first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela, who gained an IRR bursary worth £120 in 1940.

The IRR’s belief that education can be the most transformative agent in South African life underpins its commitment to a bursary programme which has awarded bursaries over the past 37 years, most of them to black students. Since 1980, no fewer than 3 771 students have graduated through our bursary programme – 1 113 in science and engineering, 1 025 in business and commerce, 608 in medicine, health sciences and dentistry, 413 in education, 376 in the arts, and 236 in law.

Many illustrious South Africans founded their careers on initial studies funded by IRR bursaries.

Nelson Mandela, who emerged as a towering world figure and a symbol of the triumph of justice, was one. Another remarkable South African, pulmonologist and pioneering health sciences academic, Professor Marina Xaba-Mokoena, began her training in orthopaedic nursing in Britain in 1964 on the strength of an IRR bursary. After graduating as a doctor at Stockholm University in Sweden in 1973, she specialised in lung disease, becoming a pulmonologist. She held senior hospital posts in South Africa and, in 1984, became the founding Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the former University of the Transkei. She has played a prominent role in international health bodies.

Prominent nursing scholar and activist Nonceba Lubanga earned an IRR bursary in 1967 to study orthopaedic nursing in Britain and went on to gain international recognition.

Pan Africanist Congress leader Philip Kgosana, famed for leading a 30 000-strong march to parliament in Cape Town after the March 1960 Sharpeville massacre, was at the time a student at the University of Cape Town on a bursary from the Institute.

These are just a handful of the many illustrious South Africans who are among the beneficiaries over the years of IRR bursary funds.

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