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“Proper education is the most potent agent of empowerment” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Desmond Tutu crop

Henley Business School joins with our friends and colleagues at Henley Africa, and the rest of the world, in mourning the loss of Archbishop-emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu who died on 26 December, 2021 in Cape Town.

Henley was honoured to have partnered with Desmond Tutu, launching the Desmond Tutu Scholarships for Ethical Leadership 16 years ago. At a gala event to mark the launch of the scholarships on 20 May 2006, Henley also conferred an Honorary Fellowship on Archbishop Tutu; only the fourth such fellowship conferred since we were established in 1946.

In a speech delivered to business leaders from both the UK and South Africa, Archbishop Tutu said at the time:

“Proper education is the most potent agent of empowerment. South Africa is still dealing with the legacy of apartheid, which deliberately under-invested in black education. The situation is still critical, and it’s been exacerbated by the “brain drain”. South Africa has lost one-third of its skilled people, at a cost of £4bn. This is a world threatened by terrorism. My answer to that is – we can be human only together; we can be prosperous only together; we can be safe and secure only together.”

In keeping with the archbishop’s work to promote ethical, visionary and value-based human development in South Africa, the Desmond Tutu Scholarships for Ethical Leadership were offered to managers in both the public and private sectors to help develop their leadership potential and management knowledge and skills. Five MBA places per year were offered at our campus in South Africa as a distance learning course, and two MBA places were offered in the UK.

This legacy of empowering black businesses and education is still a key part of Henley’s vision, particularly at Henley Africa, who recently achieved Level 1 Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) status. This was made possible in part by a school-wide energetic implementation of a preferential procurement policy creating opportunities for black suppliers, in particular focussing on businesses owned by black women.

In 2022, Henley Africa will also launch and fund a full-fee MBA scholarship to a person selected for reflecting the values Desmond Tutu held in his memory. They hope to empower people in his name to go out and create sustainable jobs, hope and prosperity for the communities in which they work.

Jon Foster-Pedley, Dean and Director of Henley Africa, paid tribute to the life and leadership of Desmond Tutu:

He was, as so many others have said, a true moral beacon, humanitarian, and compass for the world. Steadfast in his principles, he called out injustice wherever he saw it. He did it at great personal cost under apartheid and then in the new South Africa, whether it was official intransigence over HIV/Aids, upholding gay rights or calling out state capture.

“He believed that education was the key to breaking the cycle of poverty and reducing the shameful levels of inequality that blight our society - even more so today in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. When he said ‘There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in’, he was certainly reflecting on the enormous need for better education and access for young, intelligent South Africans.”

An olive tree, planted by Desmond Tutu on the day of his visit in May 2006, can be seen today at our Greenlands campus.

Henley Business School is a triple-accredited business school and part of the University of Reading. With campuses, offices and partnerships around the world, over 7,000 students from more than 100 countries and over 80,000 alumni from 160 countries, we are a truly international institution. Our courses are enriched by up to date knowledge, research and commercial experience, and aimed at students and professionals at every stage of their career – from undergraduate through to postgraduate, PhD, MBA, DBA and executive education.

Published 7 January 2022
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Henley news Equity, Diversity and Inclusion