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A letter from an alumnus about The African Scholars' Fund

January 31, 2003

re: "Princeton in the World's Service"

PAW readers may be interested to know that the centenary of the inauguration of Rhodes Scholarships is being celebrated right now, appropriately, in Cape Town. Rhodes made history and money in other parts of Southern Africa, but Cape Town has more buildings, monuments and momentos relating to his life than any other city. To date more than 6,000 students have been recipients of Rhodes Scholarships. When I was at Princeton it was my belief, rightly or wrongly, that Princeton was pre-eminent in the award of Rhodes Scholarships among American universities.

During the mid-eighties the campus indulged in a divestment campaign, which was successful in that Princeton divested from companies associated with South Africa. I recall a commencement photograph published in PAW showing people flying "Divest" balloons. I thought somewhat bitterly "was nothing sacred?" However divestment did contribute to the demise of apartheid. Not everyone was in favor of divestment. I mention two of our most illustrious antiapartheid fighters who were opposed to it — Archbishop Desmond Tutu and parliamentarian Mrs. Helen Suzman. They contended that the hardship wrought by divestment was too great a price to pay.

Be that as it may — South African education, in particular, is now at the heart of that hardship. As part of my celebration of attending our class's 50th reunion in 2000, I distributed information to various classmates on the plight of the large number of desperately poor African children who are in dire need of financial assistance to enable them to remain in high school — yes, just to enable them to continue their basic schooling. I specifically referred to a fine organization that deals with this problem, The African Scholars' Fund, and the Fund has received contributions from a number of classmates. I cannot say how gratifying this has been.

The African Scholars' Fund is a primarily voluntary organization. Ninety three cents of every rand donated goes directly to a child, and reports back are made to donors on every sponsored child. The Fund does not solicit and depends solely on word-of-mouth. As little as R500 ($50) is all that is necessary to complete one year of schooling.

As part of the Rhodes Scholars Centenary celebrations the Mandela Rhodes Foundation has been announced, and it is described as a means of bringing Rhodes' original concept to full circle. It is really quite something to see these great names brought together. The African Scholars' Fund presents an opportunity to the Princeton community, "Divest" balloon flyers, Rhodes Scholars, and all, to participate at grass-roots level.

The African Scholars' Fund website is www.bosttech.com/asf. I may be contacted on e-mail at asf@bosttech.comor at 16 Thornhill Rd., Rondebosch 7700, Cape Town, South Africa.

Mike Vialls '50
Cape Town, South Africa

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