SA married couple makes history: Husband and wife get prestigious Rhodes bursary in same year

SA married couple makes history: Husband and wife get prestigious Rhodes bursary in same year

- An Alumni couple made history when they were both awarded the coveted Rhodes Bursary

- Doctors Koot Kotze and Helene-Mari Van der Westhuizen are the first married couple who received the bursaries in the same year

- Now, the dynamic duo would be able to pursue their post gradate degrees at the best university in the word

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A married couple from Stellenbosch made history when each of them received the prestigious Rhodes bursary in the same year.

According to the coordinator the bursaries for Southern Africa, Ms Annette Gibson, they previously had married couples who were both awarded a bursary, but never in the same year.

And, it’s not the first time Drs Koot Kotze and Helene-Mari Van der Westhuizen achieved success together as a couple. From graduating together the first time, to starting a non-profit organisation and writing academic articles, which was internationally published, these two are definitely a power couple. gathered Kotze and Van der Westhuizen are even involved with the Stellenbosch safe working hours campaign.

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Now, with the Rhodes bursary, the husband and wife would get the opportunity to study together again, but this time at Oxford University in England.

“We applied for the bursaries in August last year. I was in Rhenish Girls' High and therefore qualified for the Paul Roos Rhodes bursary. Kotze applied in the national pool," Van der Westhuizen said.

Van der Westhuizen found out in August last year that her application was successful, but Kotze had to wait until December to hear if he also received the bursary.

“During the interviews in the final round, the applicants gathered in an atrium where the names of the successful candidates were announced. I wasn't sure whether I had heard correctly when the chairman read out my name, and had to fight back the tears when a friend confirmed it," Kotze recalled.

The couple are over the moon about the opportunity they get to pursue their post graduate studies at the best university in the world, all while having each other to depend on.

But, they did had a back-up plan just in case one of them did not get accepted. “The other one would investigate alternative funding for postgraduate studies or apply for work at the United Kingdom's National Health Service. Realistically, I thought I would be the one who would just go along, adopt a dog and maybe try my hand at writing a book," Van der Westhuizen’s hubby explained.

Luckily, both got accepted and they are excited about preparing for their move to England.

The married doctors said they dream of making difference in the South African health context, adding they have already applied for several study programmes.

Kotze said following his studies at Oxford, he would like to make a difference in disease and death prevention in developing countries, especially in South Africa.

According to Van der Westhuizen, the Rhodes bursary is an opportunity to rectify the injustice of the past and create a healthier world by helping South Africans succeed.

The couple then encouraged other South Africans to apply for the Rhodes and other similar bursaries.

“If you think you have a chance, apply. If you don't think you have a chance, still apply! Whatever the outcome, you will learn a lot," Van der Westhuizen said, with her husband adding one can only be considered for a bursary if they applied.

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