Yesterday Dr Jenn Wallace's academic record was officially uploaded at UCT, and she was given a photo opportunity with the Vice Chancellor.

The staff at Wynberg, eager to share any snippets about this momentous occasion, have been led to believe that it was an extraordinarily happy time, with copious tears of joy wept, and the inclusion of a video conference with her supervisor, Prof Pam Christie. Today the virtual graduation ceremony will be held.

Needless to say, the staff of Wynberg couldn't let this pass without some form of celebration. With the support of a very important person, Ang Woodward, who was able to get her bright red gown, hood and cap for us, we were able to hold an actual "graduation" ceremony for her. Tears flowed once again, and for the first time this year, Jenn was nearly speechless.

We are immensely proud of her.

Dr Wallace and Vice Chancellor

Jenn's thesis is The Gift of a Scholarship:The reflective accounts of scholarship recipients attending elite secondary schools in post-apartheid South Africa.

In the current climate in South Africa, it is hard to imagine a more significant study.

Her abstract reads:

This study investigates the experiences of scholarship students from historically disadvantaged communities who attend elite secondary schools in South Africa. Specifically, the study analyses the narrated accounts of a sample of former scholarship recipients who reflect back on their experiences of entering into, and engaging with, the field of elite schooling, having come from very different primary school contexts. Viewing the scholarship as a form of a ‘gift’ (following Mauss, 1969), and using a Bourdieusian framework and the concepts of habitus, field and capital as well as symbolic violence, the study investigates the dynamic and intricate interplay between the recipient of the scholarship on the one hand, and the elite schooling environment on the other.

In-depth, one-on-one semi-structured interviews were conducted with 20 male and female scholarship recipients between the ages of 19 and 24 years. The focus of the interviews was on the participants’ reflective experiences as scholarship recipients in elite South African schools. From the analysis of the narrative interview transcripts three main themes were explored: the interviewees’ initial experiences of the elite school space; the adjustments that they felt were required of them in order to fit in and the strategies they employed to improve their positions within the field; and what their reflective accounts reveal regarding the impact of their secondary schooling experiences on their lives.

This thesis makes several key contributions to academic debates on schooling in the post-apartheid South African context. It shows that in this profoundly unequal setting, success in one part of the field does not necessarily equate to success in another. Moreover, any assumption that access to elite schooling through the awarding of a scholarship equates to ‘equal access’ is refuted by the recipients’ narratives of their experiences. In addition, the accounts of the participants in the study reveal that accepting the gift of a scholarship is far more complex, multi-layered, and at times harsh and even painful for the individual recipients than is possibly realised by those involved in this practice. Thus, as is seen from the scholarship students’ accounts, the giving of a scholarship as an opportunity for upward social mobility impacts on the recipient in fundamental and unanticipated ways.

Congratulations, Dr Wallace. Thank you for allowing us the privilege of sharing your triumph!

Dr Jenn Wallace