Ayanda Mthethwa wins inaugural Burke Scholarship

The inaugural Burke Scholarship, aimed at advancing democracy by developing promising young journalists, has been awarded to Khethokuhle Ayanda Mthethwa, from Tsakane, Gauteng.

“Journalism is a profession that is not self-serving; if done with the right intentions. It allows people to tell their stories, and I am passionate about story-telling,” says Mthethwa who was overjoyed when she was told last month that she had been selected as the first Burke scholar. The Burke Scholarship covers full tuition fees, accommodation costs as well as a monthly stipend for living expenses.

Having matriculated in 2014, Mthethwa obtained a BA in Communication at North-West University’s (NWU) Vanderbijlpark campus before relocating in January this year to Potchefstroom campus to study towards the degree BA Honours in Journalism and Media Studies.

The inaugural scholar, who will complete her degree in December, describes herself as a bookworm who reads “ferociously”. As a child she remembers reading the newspaper while pretending to be an editor, correcting any spelling or grammar mistakes she noticed. A memorable book from her school days was Athol Fugard’s play Tsotsi, something she could identify with having seen her own peers turn to crime because of poverty. This spurred her on to read another Fugard play, Master Harold and the Boys. She is now reading Americanah by prize-winning Nigerian author, Chimamanda Nogzi Adichie.

Mthethwa already has experience in broadcast radio, having co-hosted two radio shows at the student radio station River FM last year. Mthethwa is inspired by the multi-award winning mobile journalist Yusuf Omar, who seeks to empower ordinary citizens to use their mobile phones as a means of storytelling.

“Ayanda’s attitude towards life is exactly what we want in a Burke scholar,” says Thalyta Swanepoel, senior lecturer in journalism at the NWU’s School of Communication Studies. “She is patient, eager to learn, honest, tenacious, dependable, and – best of all – already a solid young journalist with a variety of skills across media platforms.”

Swanepoel added that honest journalists who can tell stories or ordinary people and are willing to expose corruption, exploitation and injustice are at the heart of a functioning society. “Few professions could be more crucial in the survival of a democracy,” she says. “The Burke family decided to establish the scholarship to support a severely under-funded, yet noble and critical profession.” Scholars (who are enrolled in the BA Honours in Journalism and Media Studies programme at NWU Potchefstroom) are expected to be confident, relentless, determined, studious, courageous, curious, serving and visionary.

To find out more about the Burke Scholarship or how to apply, visit