Cape Town - This year, women made up a considerable portion of the recipients of honorary doctorates from some of the most prestigious universities in South Africa, the continent and globally.
One recipient was 90-year-old Queen “Ouma” Xuu Katrina Esau, considered a walking national treasure as the last speaker and fervent preserver of the indigenous Nluu language.
Esau received an honorary doctorate from the University of Cape Town (UCT) during its Faculty of Humanities graduation ceremony on Wednesday.
Due to her travelling back home to Upington in the Northern Cape after the ceremony, she was unavailable for an interview but her eldest son, Prince Jacobus Titus, spoke of her overwhelming joy regarding the occasion.
Titus said despite her many nods from the government, including the presidential Order of the Baobab in Silver, this was the first time a university had bestowed such an honour on her.
“She was overwhelmed. She cried. She can’t believe at this age that she made it and she’s still alive. I have not seen my mom like that before. People were also crying when she was capped,” Titus said.
Esau continues to teach young children the language and indigenous traditions of the San.
“But she is willing to teach in any place, if you want she will come and teach you. That is why she made the new dictionary in four languages – Afrikaans, English, Nluu and Nama. She is still busy teaching the children and anyone who wants to be taught.”
She is the mother of 11, with four surviving children, 11 grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.
Another UCT honorary degree was awarded to Dr Debra Roberts, the sustainable and resilient city initiatives unit head in the eThekwini Municipality, during the Faculty of Science graduation ceremony on Tuesday.
The university said that professor Roberts had been at the forefront of climate change action and research for the past 20 years.
On Tuesday, Stellenbosch University (SU) conferred a Doctor of Science in Agriculture honorary doctorate on renowned agricultural economist Dr Uma Lele.
Dr Lele said: “It was a great honour to have learnt from and to have contributed, through my work, to rural development on the African continent and in particular the understanding and enhancement of the role and contribution of women in agriculture and society.”
Lele, originally from India, was the first woman to be awarded a PhD in agricultural economics by the prestigious Cornell University.
Today (Fri), Rhodes University (RU) will bestow a Doctor of Law degree on Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute professor Helen Rees, and the same on Roberts, whom UCT had earlier capped.
Yesterday, RU conferred an honorary Doctor of Law degree on Janet Cherry, Professor of Development Studies at Nelson Mandela University.