Thursday, April 25, 2024

Young Motswana awarded the Neil Aggett award

Leona Morapedi, a young Motswana pupil at Kingswood College in Makhanda, South Africa, was awarded the prestigious Neil Aggett award recently.

This prestigious award is annually bestowed upon a student who embodies selflessness, positively impacts others, and advocates for those who cannot advocate for themselves. The recipient must also demonstrate proactive leadership.

The award commemorates Kingswood College alumni Neil Aggett, a social justice advocate who fought for those experiencing social injustices. Aggett attended Kingswood College from 1964-1970.

He later graduated as a medical doctor from the University of Cape Town and worked in hospitals in the Transkei and Baragwanath Hospital. Witnessing the struggles of black South African workers under apartheid, he became concerned for humanity at large.

Aggett then left his medical career to join the black trade union movement. He championed worker rights through involvement with the Transvaal Branch of the African Food and Canning Workers’ Union (AFCWU), gaining unionist trust, and was appointed organizer. He lived to see trade unions united in a mass democratic movement mobilizing for the health and prosperity of workers.

His involvement with the unions made him a target of harassment by the Security Branch of the South African Police. In 1981, he was detained for “interrogation” by the Security police. On February 5, 1982, Aggett was found dead in his cell, becoming the first white person to die under such circumstances. He was alleged to have hanged himself with a scarf.

Due to his bravery and love for humanity, the Neil Aggett Award was formed to pay tribute to the recipient’s true commitment to social responsibility.

Bestowing the award on Leona, David Wright said she ‘possesses profound respect for her fellow human beings, she exemplifies inner courage in advocating for those unable to advocate for themselves.’

“She demonstrates proactive leadership in project planning and implementation. She actively engages in community work, reflecting a deep understanding of broader social and environmental issues within both the Kingswood community and beyond. She mirrors the late Neil Aggett and continues to significantly impact those around her.”

The College’s Communications and Branding manager Kackie Grové noted that Leona is the first Motswana pupil to receive this award. She highlighted that a year prior in 2023, there was no recipient for the award as no student was deemed worthy.

“Quoting our College Head Leon Grové; before we can celebrate diversity, we must first find our common humanity. It is in acknowledgment that we are all the same, with the same hopes, fears and dreams that the youth will strive for a better world and make decisions with compassion and empathy,” she said.

Leona’s mother Lorato Morapedi, failed to hold her excitement back as she narrated how proud she is of her daughter.

“I am truly proud of her achievement especially as this award comes on the backdrop of her receiving the Community Service award at Kingswood College. From a young age, we have taught our kids that life should never be about “I” but “Others”. In everything they do they should always be selfless and all about changing other people’s lives especially the less privileged,” Morapedi explained.

Regarding the youth, Morapedi said they should have it in the back of their minds that they are tomorrow’s leaders. “One of the key roles of a leader is social Justice, which can only be achieved if at a young age one embraces the attributes of being selfless, humble, willing to sacrifice for others and deriving fulfillment from making a difference in the lives of others especially the marginalized. And this is what made her earn the award,” she advised.

Among her many acts of benevolence that earned her the award, Leona donated clothes to the children’s shelter, participated in the Mary Waters math program, initiated a plastic bag collection for Food4Futures, distributed the Parking4Parcels tickets (R1000 in sales), became part of the Model United Nations Club, initiated the Back2School project and lastly, completed Bronze President awards.

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