Annieka van der Merwe, a Theology graduate from the University of Pretoria, received the Vice-Chancellors Medal, as well as the Anton Rupert Bursary to further her studies.
Van der Merwe was born in Kempton Park, Gauteng. Her father is a Pastor, which meant that her family moved around a lot. She spent the first part of her childhood in Kempton Park and Pretoria, then moved to Rustenburg. Seven years later the family moved back to Pretoria, where she matriculated from Hoërskool Menlopark in 2012. During that year she made the decision to study Theology, intending to become a minister in the Netherdutch Reformed Church of Africa, of which she has been a member all her life. 'Traditionally, this church values academic excellence, and this is one of the reasons it is important to me to excel academically,' she says.
Becoming a minister is something Van der Merwe considered from a very young age. Although there were times when she considered other careers or directions, Theology always seemed to be the perfect choice. When the time came, she was certain that Theology was her calling. 'I just knew that this was what I had to do, and from that moment onwards I decided to commit myself to the various aspects of the studies. Thus far, it has been a truly enjoyable experience. I feel very privileged to be able to do what I enjoy,' she reflects.
She has been part of the Faculty of Theology for five years, and says that with each year her love and appreciation for the Faculty have grown. One of her very first memories of the Faculty is of the orientation week in her first year: 'We heard quite frequently during the orientation week that Theology is the smallest Faculty with the biggest heart. I was very fond of these words from the first time I heard them. Walking into the Faculty and meeting its members gave life to these words.' This is one of many things she loves about the Faculty, which she considers her second home.
Van der Merwe feels immensely privileged to have received the Vice-Chancellors Medal. For her, this was the culmination of four years of hard work. The graduation ceremony, where she received the medal, was a special experience, made extra special by the fact that it was on the same day that Prof Jürgen Moltmann received an honorary doctorate degree. Moltmann is one of the most influential and well-known theologians of all time, and the most cited living theologian. Van der Merwe feels especially privileged that all this is happening in the year that the Faculty is celebrating its centenary.
'The Anton Rupert Bursary was another miracle,' she adds. 'I feel blessed and humbled for having received this bursary, which makes a considerable difference, and enables me to continue my devotion and hard work.'
'I am genuinely excited about the future – I can't wait to start working in the church and living out my passion and calling. I feel that the Faculty does very well in preparing us for this amazing task, as well as training us in academia. I would like to pursue a path in academics and do my doctorate in the near future.'