Wits student shortlisted for prestigious international student award
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Johannesburg - A Wits University student has been selected in the top 50 for a new award given to one exceptional student that has made a real impact on learning, the lives of their peers and on society beyond.
Obakeng Leseyane, 23, was selected from 3 500 nominations and applications from 94 countries, and has been included in the top 50 shortlist for the Chegg.org Global Student Prize 2021.
The award is the sister award to the Global Teacher Prize, launched by the Varkey Foundation, to create a new platform that shines a light on the efforts of extraordinary students everywhere who, together, are reshaping our world for the better.
Inspired by the power of education as an equaliser, the Politics and International Relations student began running workshops and information sessions in Rustenburg to help others access the same opportunities he had. Leseyane has staged events and digital campaigns that have encouraged more than 300 students to enrol in high school or university.
Leseyane’s activism led him to be named “Young Leader to Watch” by FastCompany South Africa, selected as the youngest Inaugural Public Service Fellow for Southern Africa, and he also won the Doha Debates on Water Scarcity in 2019.
“In this age of Covid, students like Obakeng have shown great courage to keep studying and keep fighting for a better future despite huge obstacles. The Global Student Prize has been launched to shine a light on their stories and listen to their voices. After all, it is their dreams, their insights and their creativity that will help solve some of the greatest questions humanity has ever faced,” head of Chegg.org Lila Thomas said.
Thomas added that the finalists this year have made a huge impact in areas from the environment, equality and justice, health and well-being, education and skills and from youth empowerment to ending poverty.
“Congratulations to Obakeng for reaching the final 50. His story clearly highlights the importance of education in tackling the great challenges ahead – from climate change to growing inequality to global pandemics. It is only by prioritising education that we can safeguard all our tomorrows. Education is the key to facing the future with confidence,” founder of the Varkey Foundation Sunny Varkey said.
In the future, Leseyane plans to serve in the government as a minister for education and in 2024 he intends to run as a member of parliament. If he wins the Global Student Prize, he said he will use the funds to provide children in Rustenburg with a new school uniform to boost their social confidence and renew their dignity.
The top 10 finalists of both the Global Student Prize and the Global Teacher Prize will be announced in October. The winners of both prizes will be chosen from the respective top 10 finalists by the Global Student Prize Academy and the Global Teacher Prize Academy, made up of prominent individuals. The winners are due to be announced at an awards ceremony in Paris in November.