Takhona Hlatshwako, UWCD’18, named Rhodes Scholar to pursue global health and tropical medicine at Oxford University
  • Stories of Alumni

Congratulations to Takhona Hlatshwako UWCD’18 who was named Rhodes Scholar to pursue global health and tropical medicine at Oxford University!

Takhona Hlatshwako, a UWCD’18 graduate from the Kingdom of Eswatini in Southern Africa (formerly Swaziland), has been named a Rhodes Scholar to pursue a fully funded postgraduate degree at the University of Oxford beginning autumn 2022.

Takhona is the first UWC Dilijan graduate and the first person from Eswatini to receive the Rhodes Scholarship – she was selected through the Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, and Eswatini Scholarship (BLMNS) under the Rhodes Trust.

Takhona is currently a Morehead-Cain Scholar at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill.  The Morehead-Cain is a four-year, fully funded educational experience for exceptional student leaders.

Takhona’s interest in public health goes back to her childhood during which she witnessed the devastation that HIV brought in Eswatini. During her university years Takhona returned to Eswatini over the summer to work on a USAID-funded research project collaborating with a team of researchers to publish a paper on strategies that might increase HIV testing participation and use of HIV-related services among men.

The COVID-19 pandemic strengthened Takhona’s determination to expand her interests in public health to a global context. She worked on a global COVID-19 study through the UNC Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases.

After the completion of the programme at Oxford, Takhona plans to continue her education and earn a PhD in global health focussing on health equity and infectious diseases.

In an interview to the Morehead-Cain, reflecting on becoming the first Rhodes Scholar from her country, Takhona said, “I think it’s important for us to be represented in such a global community . . . and to have our voices heard. I’m humbled that I get to be the one to do that.”

The Rhodes Scholarship, established in 1902, is one of the oldest and most prestigious international scholarship programmes. Scholars are selected based on academic excellence, character, leadership, and commitment to service.

In Takhona's Own Words:

Looking back, how did UWC Dilijan help you achieve where you are today?

Attending UWC Dilijan broadened up my world. I had never been outside of the African continent before I left for UWC, and in as much as I “went” to UWC, it felt like the world came to me. I met and lived with people from so many countries, which really helped to deconstruct all the limited views I had held about the world. I became more aware and interested in the livelihoods of those around me, and I’ve carried that spirit with me in my journey beyond UWC. It made me a global citizen, and my interest in global health grew from that. Everything I have sought, I sought because attending UWC made me dare to think it was possible – and it was.

What are your immediate plans in terms of study as a Rhodes Scholar?

I’m hoping to pursue two master’s degrees at the University of Oxford, both related to global health. Studying public health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has allowed me to delve deeper into the health challenges faced by our society today (many of which I was introduced to at UWC). I hope to take my education to the next stage now, and collaborate with people who also have the same goals for our future, that being equity, health, and wellbeing.

Where would you like to be/what to do in five years?

I still have a lot of studying to do, so I hope that in 5 years I would be at least halfway through with those plans. My ultimate goal is to be a global health scientist, primarily working to improve population health in low and middle-income countries. I’m really passionate about health research and using evidence to support innovative solutions, so I'm hoping to be doing that in the next few years.

What do you miss about Dilijan?

I miss the greenery! Being surrounded by so much nature and beauty was truly a privilege. I also miss my friends and teachers. Graduating from UWC is sort of like having your heart scattered all over the world, but at least once before it was in one piece – and that was while you were there. I miss all those times I sat and shared meals with people in the cafeteria, talking to them about where they came from and where they were hoping to go. It was truly an extraordinary experience, and I realize that more and more every day.

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