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Chilean President announces new Mandela scholarships

Cape Town – Chilean President Michelle Bachelet Jeria says she has put a proposal to her government to avail 50 scholarships to students in South Africa and other African countries to pursue their master’s degrees at a top university in Chile.

Briefing journalists after delivering the Annual Nelson Mandela Lecture in Cape Town on Saturday, President Bachelet said the awarding of the scholarships would be done in honour of the late President.

The President said Tata, who affectionately became known by his clan name Madiba, was her role model growing up.

“[President] Nelson Mandela has been a leader who inspired me all of my life. So for me, this is very special.

“But also, as I said in the lecture, he has taught us so much. I have learnt so much from him…

“So that is why … in 2015, we are going to have 50 Nelson Mandela scholarships … to go study at the University of Chile,” she said.

She said that upon approval by the Chilean Congress, the scholarships would fund deserving students who want to pursue master’s degrees in the fields of farming, mining and astronomy, among others.

Her announcement comes after her meeting with President Jacob Zuma at the Union Buildings on Friday, where the two identified sectors in their respective economies to work together to boost economic growth.

Among several opportunities that the two Presidents identified as areas of cooperation are energy, defence, science and technology, trade and investment, mineral resources, social development and environmental issues.

Chile expressed interest in South Africa’s Energy Master Plan and the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project – the world’s largest radio telescope.

This is in light of South Africa and Chile being two leading countries in astronomy research.

Chile to build a Mandela memorial

President Bachelet said to further honour Tata Madiba, her country would build a sculpture at a park in Santiago, the capital of Chile.

“…We will build a sculpture at a beautiful park in Santiago, where so many people [walk by] so they can learn about Nelson Mandela and be inspired by him,” she said.

She said she was honoured to have been invited to come to South Africa to deliver the 12th Annual Nelson Mandela Lecture.

The President said in turn, she had extended an invitation to the Nelson Mandela Foundation to go to Chile for a South-South dialogue to share experiences on challenges related to social cohesion, from inequalities to wide-ranging issues of diversity – be it cultural or sexual diversity.

Delivering her lecture earlier, the President spoke of how Tata inspired not only South Africans, but the rest of the world when he chose nation building through reconciliation after spending many years in jail.

She said while social cohesion included dealing with poverty, cultural differences and inequalities, she said the strongest weapon to forge national unity was through the state holding extensive consultations with its people.

She said this included, among others, consulting people not only on implementation of programmes, but also on the decisions that precede policy or legislation changes or drafting.

The President also said that her government was currently consulting people on creating a new ministry for indigenous groups to get their input on how they want their country to be run in a bid to promote social cohesion.

She said President Mandela also told the world that education remained the most crucial intervention for social cohesion.