Centre for Human Rights celebrates graduating student despite COVID-19 challenges
Posted on December 13, 2021
The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria (UP), on 10 December 2021 celebrated the achievements of its graduating students during a private event at the Future Africa Campus of the University of Pretoria The annual graduation on 10 December, International Human Rights Day, has become a regular item on the Centre calendar.
This year, the official Graduation took place virtually and was complemented by the Centre’s informal ceremony.
The Director of the Centre, Frans Viljoen, remarked:
'This has been a year of great uncertainty and challenge due to the vagaries of COVID-19. We are therefore very thankful that we could celebrate the achievements, considerable resilience and admirable courage of students, lecturers and other Centre staff.’
Professor Sylvia Tamale acknowledged with an honorary doctorate
Based on a nomination by the Centre for Human Rights, an honorary doctorate was bestowed on Professor Sylvia Tamale. Professor Tamale, who was the first woman Dean of the School of Law, Makerere University, has shifted boundaries for African women. This honorary doctorate acknowledges her unwavering commitment to the rights of women and sexual minorities in Uganda and across Africa, her trailblazing leadership role as an African woman, her principled and provocative scholarship on sexual and reproductive rights, and her contribution to advancing African feminism. In her recoded virtual address, link here Professor Tamale expressed surprise at being honoured in this way: ‘Where I come from, vocal feminists academics are mostly othered or vilified’ and not honoured. She thanked UP for providing her with a ‘new platform’ from which to launch her continued activism against imperialism, racialism, patriarchy and heteronormativity, adding: ‘Maybe the world will listen’. Prof Tamale indicated that the honorary doctorate is a welcome ‘retirement gift’, as it comes at a time when she is poised to ‘hang up’ her ‘academic gowns’ after three and a half decades at Makerere University. Professor Tamale called for an overhaul of educational systems, to allow for more inclusive and democratic learning methods, for the adoption of Afrocentric approaches, and for empathy and diversity as important elements in teaching programmes.
Nine doctoral degrees were awarded. Tresor Makunya, the Centre’s Publications Coordinator, completed an LLD under the supervision of Prof Charles Fombad. Two other Master graduates of the Centre’s LLM/MPhil in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa (HRDA) programme also graduated with LLDs: Ernest Ako, with a thesis completed under the supervision of Prof Frans Viljoen, and Chairman Okoloise, who finished his LLD under Prof Magnus Killander’s supervision.
Two colleagues who already find themselves in academic positions also obtained their LLDs. Radebe Keneilwe, who is a Lecturer in the Department of Public Law, completed a thesis under the supervision of Prof Charles Maimela, and Willene Holness, a senior lecturer at the School of Law, University of KwaZulu-Natal, graduated after completing a thesis with Prof Charles Ngwena as supervisor.
A total of 48 students on four of the Centre’s Master’s programmes graduated.
A total of 25 students graduated from the HRDA programme, 19 students graduated from the LLM in International Trade and Investment Law in Africa (TILA) programme, three students graduated from the LLM/MPhil in Multidisciplinary Human Rights (MDHR), and one student completed and graduated from the MPhil in Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Africa. Four students on the HRDA obtained distinctions, six on the TILA programme, and one on the MDHR.
The Nelson Mandela Prize for the best overall student on the HRDA programme went to Ashina Mtsumi (Kenya), and the Kéba M’baye Prize for the best mini-dissertation in the HRDA went to Kwame Darklo (Ghana). Kwame also received the Ubuntu Prize for the student best embodying the values of ubuntu while undertaking the programme. The Victor Dankwa prize for the highest marks in the Module African human rights system was co-awarded to Ramatoulie Isatou Jallow (Botswana) and Ashina Ntenga Mtsumi (Kenya).
All three academic prizes (for the two taught modules and the Dr TO Elias Prize for the best mini-dissertation) in the TILA went to Nelson Onuoha. Jack Okore received the Social Responsibility Prize.
Vera Chirwa Prize
Annually, the Centre also award the Vera Chirwa prize. This year, the Vera Chirwa award went to Roselyn Hanzi, the Executive Director of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. Regrettably, Rose could not be present to receive the award. The award will hopefully take place in person in 2022.
During the proceedings, a video message from Professor Elsabe Schoeman, the Dean of the Faculty of Law, was played. Directing her to the new graduates, she said: ‘We want you to have a decisive impact on your community as you work towards the strengthening of human rights institutions across the continent and the world. The pandemic has yet again put in stark relief the important role of human rights in a world torn apart by inequality and injustice. I know that you will make a real difference and contribute to a better world for all.’
The Dean also annually awards prizes to the HRDA students whose essays about their experience are most striking. This year’s prizes went to Lornah Afoyomungu (Uganda) and Bwalya Chisanga (Zambia) (shared winners) and Thobekile Matimbe (Zimbabwe) and Kwame Darklo (Ghana) (shared runners-up).
HRDA post-graduation placements for 2022
Thanks to generous donations solicited from donors, in particular, the European Union and the Norwegian Government through its Embassy in Pretoria, the Centre annually selected a number of recent graduates from the HRDA programme to act as interns/ legal officers at the main African Union institutions dealing with human rights. The following graduates will be based at the indicated places in 2022:
Amy Beatrice Tuchten (African Committee on the Rights and Welfare of the Child)
Bwalya Chisanga (Economic, Social and Cultural Council)
Melissa Kathleen Mungai (African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights)