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100 years Fort Hare

The University of Fort Hare in the Eastern Cape has reached a historical milestone as it celebrates its centenary. Established in 1916, in pursuit of academic excellence, it has been a beacon of hope for the whole continent.

The university came into existence after Presbyterian missionaries endeavoured to educate young AmaXhosa people, but ended up attracting all races from across Africa.

The institution has stood the test of time in its hundred years of existence and continues to be a centre of excellence for the African continent.

Originally the institution was known as the South African Natives College. It became known as the University of Fort Hare the early 1950's.

The idea was to create an institution of higher learning for Blacks who had completed matric at Lovedale College, Healdtown College, and other black schools so as to enlighten them.

It started operating in an old military encampment following fundraising efforts led by John Tengo Jabavu who would go to neighbouring villages collecting money to build a proper structure.

Operating under the slogan, "In Your Light We shall See The Light", the institution has strived to illuminate the African continent with world class education.

Fort Hare's Vice Chancellor, Dr. Mvuyo Tom, says the history of the institution speaks volumes. "In the first 40 years of its existence before the promulgation of what is known as the extension of the Universities Act in 1959, this university had what we call the Golden Years when it produced the five international presidents and heads of countries."

"It was very unique university to have done such, producing for different countries leaders and head of states, in Uganda, Botswana, Lesotho, in South Africa and Zimbabwe."

Fort Hare has produced prominent leaders such as Oliver Tambo, Duma Nokwe, Govan Mbeki, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, Botswana's former President Quett Masire, former President of Uganda Yusuf Lele, Botswana's first President Seretse Khama, Lesotho's former Prime Minister Ntsu Mokehle, South Africa's first democratically elected President Nelson Mandela and IFP leader, Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

Buthelezi says the institution has helped shape the continent and produced prominent leaders.

"When you look back at the work that institution has accomplished in producing so many of our leaders almost throughout Africa, I
think of many friends some still alive and some passed away who were contemporaries of mine during that time."

"I think that the university actually has done something really great for the continent of Africa because many leaders including the first president of Botswana Seretse Khama who's a product of Fort Hare."

For some, Fort Hare is where a sense of political activism was ignited. Political Activist, Mda Mda is one of them. Mda, now aged 93, says the institution helped to mould him.

'When I arrived there, I was just a small boy of 18 not yet circumcised. The way now you must be able to stand your own ground, the way now you must be able to keep your emotions in check, you must rely more on reason than emotion and must be able to stand even alone, all that we learnt in Fort Hare."

Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Mduduzi Manana, says this institution has more to do now that it has entered its second century of existence.

"We are dealing with an institution that is abound with a number of challenges but which has an immense rich history. We know that it is in capable hands both at governance level and management level. We know that students who go and study at Fort Hare are students who want to take South Africa forward."

Fort Hare's Vice Chancellor Dr. Mvuyo Tom says one of their targets is building up to the second centenary, to move from being a historically disadvantaged institution to a world class institution of higher learning.

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