Report on South African Fulbright Scholars (1953–1996)
An opportunity for black South Africans to obtain PhD’s outside of the apartheid system was provided by the US government’s Fulbright exchange programme. Since its inception in 1946 it has sponsored almost 320,000 students, scholars, and teachers worldwide. Recipients have been selected on the basis of high academic achievement, demonstrated leadership potential, and flexibility and adaptability to interact successfully with the host community abroad. Since 1953 more than 1 500 South Africans and Americans have participated in the Fulbright exchange program between South Africa and the USA. Defying the apartheid regulations of the time, the Fulbright program provided opportunities to South Africans regardless of colour, class and creed to pursue post-graduate study and research in the USA. The apartheid government did not impose any travel restrictions on black students participating in the Fulbright program.
Of the 892 South Africans, the majority, 57% were white, 29% African, 9% Indian and 5% coloured. The first black South African on record to have received a Fulbright scholarship was Mapule Ramashala, who received her PhD in Education from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1965. Up to 2004 she was Vice-Chancellor & Principal of University Durban-Westville and then became the head of the Medical Research Council. The group of leaders in the new South Africa who were Fulbright scholars is rather astounding; seven vice chancellors (Ramashala, Badat, O’Connel, Jansen, Nevuthalu; Moutlana; Minyuku) and two presidents of science councils (Sibisi and Mokghele) not to mention a host of famous artists and writers. An expanded list of prominent people who received Fulbright scholarships can be found in the Appendix.