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A Transformative Journey: Reflecting on the Mandela Washington Fellowship 2023

Updated: Nov 7, 2023

By Sibulele Magini (Head of school, Molo Mhlaba Schools)

Photo Credit: Dr Tracy Jentzsch - Sibulele Magini with the Governor of Delaware at the State Capital in Dover

It is with immense pride and gratitude that I reflect upon my participation in the prestigious

Mandela Washington Fellowship, a life-altering experience that allowed me to delve deep

into leadership training. This journey took me across the Atlantic, from the tip of South

Africa to the United States, where I spent six weeks at the University of Delaware gaining

valuable leadership training. This was followed by an inspiring week in Washington D.C,

where the Summit was held, and four weeks in Baltimore City at the Digital Harbor

Foundation, where I acquired essential tech and leadership skills. All these experiences have

profoundly shaped our vision and aspirations for Molo Mhlaba Schools.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship, an initiative of the U.S. Department of State, is a

highly competitive program that brings together young African leaders for intensive,

academic coursework and leadership training. For our school, Molo Mhlaba, to be selected to participate in this prestigious fellowship was nothing short of a dream come true. The

fellowship, named after the iconic Nelson Mandela and his legacy, is designed to empower

emerging African leaders in various fields. For us, it was a unique opportunity to strengthen

our vision of providing quality education, particularly in the fields of STEM (Science,

Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).

Our journey began at the University of Delaware, a place known for its academic excellence

and commitment to leadership development. During our six weeks there, I had the privilege

of participating in a dynamic leadership program, which included intensive workshops,

seminars, and interactions with distinguished faculty members and fellow participants. The

experience not only expanded my understanding of leadership but also provided insights into

how I could enhance our school's leadership framework.

Following our time in Delaware, I had the opportunity to attend the Summit in Washington

D.C. The summit was a culmination of our fellowship journey and an incredible experience

that exposed us to some of the world's most influential leaders. The inspiration and energy at

the summit were overwhelming. It made me realize the importance of networking and collaboration for a global impact, and these lessons are now being integrated into our school's ethos.

Our journey then took us to Baltimore City, where I spent four weeks at the Digital Harbor

Foundation. Here, I gained hands-on experience in technology education, including coding,

robotics, and digital literacy. Equally important, I had the privilege of working closely with

mentors and educators who shared their insights into effective leadership in a tech-driven

educational setting. This invaluable experience at Digital Harbor Foundation has equipped

me with the skills and knowledge necessary to lead a STEM school like Molo Mhlaba into

the future.

Our participation in the Mandela Washington Fellowship 2023 has been a transformative

experience, not just for me as the Headmaster but also for our school community as a whole.

We return to South Africa with a newfound determination to integrate the principles of

effective leadership and technology education into our curriculum. We are committed to

creating a learning environment that not only prepares our girls academically but also

empowers them with the skills and mindset to navigate the challenges of the digital age.

As we reflect on this remarkable journey, we express our deepest gratitude to the Mandela

Washington Fellowship program, the University of Delaware, the Summit organizers, and the

Digital Harbor Foundation for their unwavering support and guidance. We look forward to a

future where Molo Mhlaba Schools will stand as a beacon of excellence in STEM education,

black girls leadership, and innovation.

In the spirit of Nelson Mandela's legacy, we are determined to be the change we wish to see,

not just in our school, but in the wider world. This journey has only just begun, and we are

excited to see where it will lead us in our continued efforts to provide a world-class education

and make a lasting impact on the lives of young black girls in the under-served community of

Khayelitsha and the broader community. The Mandela Washington Fellowship 2023 has not

only opened doors but also ignited the flames of inspiration that will guide us on this

extraordinary path.


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