December 30, 2011
Sebabatso C. Manoeli, a member of Amherst College’s Class of 2011, has been named a South African Rhodes Scholar. The Welkom, South Africa, resident joins just 82 other students globally who were selected for the honor, which provides recipients with full financial support to pursue a degree or degrees at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.
Manoeli is the seventh Amherst student to receive a Rhodes Scholarship in the past 25 years; the most recent were Daniel Altschuler ’04 in 2005 and Jordan Krall ’01 in 2001. The award—which was created in 1902 by the will of British philanthropist Cecil Rhodes—is the oldest, and is considered by many to be the most prestigious, international graduate scholarship in the world. Winners are selected on the basis of high academic achievement, personal integrity, leadership potential and physical vigor, among other attributes.
A political science and black studies major at Amherst, Manoeli plans to pursue a master of science degree in global governance and diplomacy at Oxford. Such an academic path, she said, will allow her to follow in the footsteps of her grandfather Morena Moletsane Mokoroane, the former Minister of Trade and Industry of Lesotho, who advocated for social justice by drawing attention to his country’s “yawning chasm between the rich and the poor.” “Where Mokoroane sought to bring about equity and prosperity through trade and industrial development, I wish to accomplish the same by developing and buttressing robust democracies from a policy vantage point,” Manoeli explained. “Where leaders like my grandfather left off, I will pick up, not only for Lesotho but also for Africa at large. This is my inheritance.”
Manoeli lived in Lesotho until age seven but then moved with her family to the greener economic pastures of South Africa in 1995, the year after apartheid ended. At that time, the country was “charged with the power of the collective action that brought about political change,” she wrote in her application for the Rhodes. “The people of South Africa had reason to believe in the value of their political voice. Their struggle had not been in vain as it produced remarkable democratic reforms. Growing up in the midst of this political change, as the first generation to fully enjoy the benefits of a democratic South Africa, gave me a deep respect for democracy and an appetite for political transformation where oppression persists.”
For Manoeli, that appetite for political transformation manifested itself in poetry, public speaking, debate and, finally, activism. She was asked to represent South Africa at the International Debate Exchange Program in the U.S. during her high school years and spoke at the 55th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women as an Amherst undergraduate. Interested in learning what she could do to boost the economy of her homeland, she participated in the Harvard Africa Business Conference and the Harambe Endeavour, an entrepreneurial coalition of young Africans seeking innovative business solutions to Africa’s economic challenges. In addition, she took part in the Moremi Initiative for Women’s Leadership in Africa, led an anti-human-trafficking service trip in South Africa during the 2010 World Cup and, upon graduating from college, joined the African Leadership Academy as an external relations analyst.
Manoeli’s Amherst career began on a high note, as she was one of three students in 2007 to be awarded a Mandela Scholarship in recognition of academic merit. During her time at the college, she was a student coordinator for the Center for Community Engagement, volunteered at several area homeless shelters and worked as an assistant youth pastor at the town’s Baptist church. She also spent a semester at The American University in Cairo learning about regional integration in the Arab League and in Africa.
What excites Manoeli most about the Rhodes, she said, is that it will enable her to build on all of these leadership and political experiences. “My varied personal experiences and the rigorous academic preparation I have received at Amherst give me confidence that I will absolutely thrive in Oxford’s intellectually demanding environment,” she explained. “I know I will learn a great deal about harnessing Africa’s potential and democratization from the university’s global as well as Africa-focused research centers. I also know that Oxford will be the ideal place for me to pick up the baton from the previous generation of leaders and pursue my desire to leave a legacy of principled leadership and just policy-making, in Africa and the world.”