Awards aplenty for UCT student’s scholarship platform

27 November 2020 | Story Carla Bernardo. Photos Supplied. Read time 4 min.
Africademics, the brainchild of UCT PhD candidate Lena Gronbach, has many exciting initiatives on the go.
Africademics, the brainchild of UCT PhD candidate Lena Gronbach, has many exciting initiatives on the go.

Africademics, a scholarship platform created by University of Cape Town (UCT) PhD candidate Lena Gronbach, has been honoured with three prestigious social responsiveness awards.

The online platform is a community for students, early-career researchers and young professionals in and from Africa. Gronbach, a second-year PhD candidate in UCT’s Department of Sociology, started Africademics in 2019 after her search for funding.

As a German national, she struggled to find funding opportunities that would enable her to pursue her studies in South Africa. But while searching, she came across many exciting programmes, scholarships and opportunities for African students and decided she’d share her finds with peers.

What began as a Facebook page (and has since garnered over 16 000 page likes) is now a multiplatform initiative with a presence on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and an Africademics website. Since launching, Gronbach has shared more than 1 000 scholarship opportunities, which includes funding for both undergraduate and postgraduate studies, as well as study-abroad opportunities and research fellowships.

Social initiatives and start-ups

For her hard work, and as validation of Africademics’ aims, Gronbach has received three prestigious awards. The first is the annual social engagement prize awarded by The German Academic Scholarship Foundation to scholarship holders who run social initiatives.

The award consists of a cash prize, a fundraising campaign through the foundation’s alumni network, a coaching weekend, a formal award ceremony in 2021 and ongoing mentoring and support.

“Receiving the award has reinforced my drive for more equality and opportunities in the field of higher education,” she said.

She will use the prize money to expand the Africademics University Ambassador Programme, share more scholarships and opportunities, host information-sharing events and offer webinars and personal support for students who wish to apply for scholarships.

Africademics University Ambassador (Stellenbosch University) Aydn Parrot will be assisting with the expansion of the ambassador programme in 2021.

The second award Gronbach received for her work with Africademics is the startsocial scholarship, an annual coaching and mentoring programme for social start-ups and is run under the patronage of German chancellor, Angela Merkel. Every year 100 initiatives are selected for the first round of coaching, and the best projects will receive additional prizes in 2021.

The next level

The third honour she received is the recent announcement that Africademics has been selected as one of the participants of the Global Goals Lab, a networking and qualification programme for social initiatives working towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“Participating in the Global Goals Lab has given me the opportunity to connect with other social initiatives that work towards the SDGs,” said Gronbach.


“These awards have really given me the recognition and support I needed to take Africademics to the next level.”

“Through the current collaboration phase of the programme, we will be able to expand our network, share experiences and learn from the successes (and failures) of other organisations.”

And particularly important for Gronbach is increasing access to higher education in sub-Saharan Africa, where less than 10% of young adults were enrolled at a university, according to a 2018 UNESCO report.

“These awards have really given me the recognition and support I needed to take Africademics to the next level. Receiving so much positive and constructive feedback on my initiative and seeing the growing interest in my organisation have shown me that we are on the right path.

“There certainly is a great need for the support we offer, and I can’t wait to see what 2021 will bring for us!”

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