Inspiring Greatness is not just a tag line but a way of life for UKZN Law students and recipients of the Rhodes Scholarship, Ms Seham Areff and Mr Ntokozo Qwabe, who graduated summa cum laude to add to their impressive achievements.
Areff and Qwabe were awarded their their LLB degrees during a Graduation ceremony and as the recipients of the South Africa at Large and KwaZulu-Natal Rhodes Scholarship respectively, the pair will further their studies at Oxford University in England for two years.
Areff – currently working as a clerk for Mr Justice Johann van der Westhuizen in the Constitutional Court of South Africa – has been accepted at Oxford to study for a Bachelor of Civil Law which she will do for the first year before studying for her Masters in Global Governance and Diplomacy.
‘Through this Scholarship, I am now able to study and practice Law which is what I am most interested in and passionate about. It is because of an LLB qualification from UKZN that I was accepted into the BCL programme at Oxford, which is one of the most intellectually stimulating and challenging law programmes in the world. I am so grateful and blessed and I take this as a good foundation from which I can move forward and apply the same hard work and dedication to my field,’ she said.
Areff’s other academic achievements include graduating cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Political Science and Legal Studies in 2012. She has also competed in numerous domestic and international debating competitions including the Global Debate and Public Policy Challenge Budapest Forum last year where she debated the policy choices of Digital Freedom and Its Limits. She has also won a grant from the International Debate and Education Association to intern at a Non-Governmental Organisation of her choice after her studies.
For Qwabe, who is currently doing an LLM in Constitutional and Administrative Law at the University of Cape Town as a Rhodes Scholar, the journey to academic success was one of determination and succeeding despite facing severe financial and socio-economic difficulties. Growing up in a huge family of 13 children – all dependent on the sole income of their father who was employed as a caretaker at a high school in Durban – to dropping out of university and being forced to work as a cashier at Checkers Supermarket then returning to his studies to achieve 34 distinctions, 20 Certificates of Merit and seven Dean’s Commendations among other awards, is a true testament to tenacity, dedication and hard work.
Qwabe recently won the UKZN Distinguished Student Award, the highest student honour at UKZN across the five campuses, for his academic excellence, university service and extensive community engagement.
‘I am very happy because, as black students, we always see people of other races getting summa cum laude passes which motivated me to break the trend. All of these achievements show that regardless of what kind of severe disadvantage you are studying under, there is no excuse not to go out there and use your potential to the full.
‘I am aware that there are fellow students who, like me, face enormous socio-economic challenges and I hope my example inspires them to realise that nothing is impossible. I studied law because I think it can, along with other fields, serve as a creative tool to bring about social change and justice. There are various community development projects I am involved in and which I would like to see blossoming,’ he said.
As part of his quest of uplifting and empowering others, Qwabe founded and chairs the Rural Students’ Society; was on the executive committees of the Black Management Forum and the Students for Law and Social Justice; and was selected to represent UKZN at the international African Human Rights Moot Court Competition where the University was ranked in the top 10. He also co-founded and served as the Editor-in-Chief of the UKZN Student Law Review journal which is the first of its kind in KwaZulu-Natal.
His immediate academic plans include using his Rhodes Scholarship to study for two masters degrees at the University of Oxford.
He has been admitted to study towards a BCL in Public Law in his first year, where he will explore courses such as Comparative Public Law, Comparative Human Rights Law, International Economic Law and a course in Jurisprudence and Political Theory. In the second year, he plans to pursue an MSc in Global Governance and Diplomacy.
Dean and Head of the Law School, Professor Managay Reddi said: ‘I would like to acknowledge the efforts of the staff in my School and thank them for the excellent work they are doing in producing graduates like Ms Areff and Mr Qwabe. The School of Law has been an integral partner in supporting students who are determined to make a difference to the lives of all South Africans by inspiring young people to aspire to great heights.’