South Peninsula High School (SPHS) class of 2021 matriculant Kirsten Links is a recipient of the Dr Aadil Moerat Medical Bursary Trust, which was launched at the school on Saturday January 22.
Initially started as a fund by Dr Moerat’s late parents of Wynberg, it targets financially needy high school pupils who want to study medicine.
A former South Peninsula High School pupil and general practitioner, Dr Moerat tragically lost his life while working in Gugulethu in January 1998.
Since 2001, the bursary has helped 22 pupils. This year it was formalised into a trust that can be sustained long after the current administrators are gone, according Nohra Moerat, Dr Moerat’s oldest sister and the trust’s public officer.
She said Dr Moerat was known as the “people’s doctor”. As a general practitioner and anti-apartheid activist, he was revered by many for his community health activism.
Kirsten said she is thrilled to be the recipient of the Dr Aadil Moerat Medical Bursary Trust of R10 000.
She said that she saw classmate Tasneem Ismail as her opposition but she worked consistently and passed. She said they both went to the same primary school, Ferndale and both live in Ottery.
Kirsten has chosen to study medicine with a focus on Alzheimer’s disease, which destroys memory and other important mental functions. The confident young woman said she sees it as a challenge but taking on the unknown can be exciting.
Her advice to 2022 matriculants is not to let anything get in their way, including Covid and to know what is best for yourself.
Tasneem was the top 2021 matriculant with an aggregate of 89.2% with six distinctions, including A’s in pure maths, physical sciences, life sciences and accounting. Because she is not pursuing studies in the health sciences she received the inaugural MN Moerat Top Student Prize of R1 000.
Tasneem was accepted for computer sciences at UCT and Stellenbosch but will be studying at UCT in 2022. Tasneem believes that the 2021 experience taught her to be more independent in her studies and to make the best use of her available resources. Tasneem battled with long Covid from August which made studying difficult for her preliminary exams in September.
South Peninsula High School principal, Zeid Baker said when Tasneem returned to school using a walking stick her class applauded her.
Tasneem said the final exams were daunting but she is eternally grateful to her family and the school who supported her. Her advice to the class of 2022 is to remain focused on their goals and to persevere.
Former principal of South Peninsula High School and chairman and founder of the bursary fund, Brian Isaacs, said Dr Moerat’s father was principal of the school and asked him to take over. Mr Isaacs was 29 years old and had only been teaching for seven years. “I had a wife and four sons. There was no way I could take over a school,” smiled Mr Isaacs.
But Mr Moerat encouraged him arguing that if he did not, someone who did not have the same philosophy of the school would take over.
Mr Isaacs survived and went on to head the school for 25 years while Mr Morerat’s son worked in poor communities. “He never became bitter that his son was murdered. He forgave. It’s always good people who change society,” said Mr Isaacs.
Ms Moerat said it is not just about the money. People who are chosen will receive mentorship from previous beneficiaries as they continue their studies. She said another two bursaries of R10 000 will be awarded later this year. “These will be advertised at the institutions and students can apply for them. They do not have to be ex-students of SPHS. The recipients are selected by a panel made up of trustees and other experts in the health sciences,” said Ms Moerat.
The bursary is not only for medical students. In the past, bursaries have been awarded to students pursuing studies in occupational therapy, pharmacy, audiology as well as medicine, broadly described as health sciences.
Nawaal Arendse (nee Sakier) of Kimberley, a 2011 beneficiary, graduated with a BSc occupational therapy in 2012. She recently submitted her Master’s degree thesis titled: Mental Health Care Users’ perceptions and experiences of community re-integration in the Digatlong sub-district. She is awaiting examination results.
Amy Booth, a 2014 beneficiary could not attend because she is outside the country. She recalls reading about the bursary, which aimed to award applicants who showed involvement in community work, had merit and motivation and needed financial support. “I am so grateful for the support of the bursary in my early career, where as a student, finances were an issue,” she said. She adds that she left clinical medicine to pursue a PhD, on a Rhodes Scholarship, at the University of Oxford. “My research is on the contribution of health systems to climate change and how we can embed environmental sustainability into health care – this switch in my career came as a result of a realisation that both people and the planet need caring for, that we can’t have good human health without a healthy planet, and my desire to play at least a small part in contributing to the health of both,” said Ms Booth.