27 July 2022 | Story Rulanzen Martin | Photo Supplied
Drs Miyanda Simbawachi, Honest Konke and Jennifer Chansa
Elated for the opportunity to becoming published authors. From left are Drs Miyanda Simabwachi, Honest Koke, and Jennifer Chansa.

Drs Miyanda Simabwachi, Jennifer Chansa, and Honest Koke of the University of the Free State (UFS) have been awarded the international African Humanities Grant, which is presented by the American Council of Learned Societies and funded through the Carnegie Foundation.  

The grant will allow for them to revise their PhD theses into books, and will help the candidates to conduct additional research and field work to supplement their PhD dissertations and publish comprehensive monographs. “The funding will be helpful in conducting additional archival research within and beyond Zambia for my book, tentatively titled An Administrative History of Archives in Zambia, 1890-1991,” says Dr Simabwachi, whose research interests lie in public archives in Zambia. Her PhD was titled ‘A History of Archives in Zambia, 1890-1991’, and examined the history of the creation of public archives in relation to changing systems of government in Zambia between 1890 and 1991.

For Dr Chansa, whose research interest focuses on the impact of large-scale mining investment on ‘indigenous’ communities on the ‘new’ Zambian Copperbelt, it is an amazing opportunity to build scholarly networks both within and outside of Africa. “With my current fellowship, I expect to revise my PhD thesis into a book, which is a significant step at this point in my career,” she says. “The grant will therefore facilitate additional archival research and fieldwork in Zambia as I work towards this by expanding the scope of my PhD research.” 

Dr Koke focused his PhD research and thesis on Southern Rhodesia’s development through the lens of its fiscal system from 1890 to 1953, and says the programme will be beneficial for his academic endeavors, which include turning his thesis into a monograph. “As an early career academic, the fellowship is very important to me as I take tentative steps into this noble career and profession,” Dr Koke says. “My research interests revolve around fiscal histories, governance, and youth policies in southern Africa and Zimbabwe in particular.” 

The new recipients follow in the footsteps of nine previous International Studies Group (ISG) at the University of the Free State (UFS) fellows who have been awarded this prestigious scholarship and grant. 

Fellows proud to be associated with UFS ISG

Drs Simabwachi, Chansa and Koke are all historians with a research focus on African history, and they say their postdoctoral success can be attributed to the foundation and backing they received from the ISG. “Through the ISG’s support, I have been able to engage in many scholarly opportunities and research networks that I would not have had access to in my home country,” Dr Chansa says. 

For Dr Koke it’s a double dream come true: being awarded the scholarship, and being part of the ISG. “Having started my academic career as a graduate teaching assistant at the University of Zimbabwe, the ISG gave me the opportunity to study at the UFS, a place I could only dream of during my undergraduate studies.”  

Advantages of being part of the ISG

Being part of the ISG sets a good foundation for any postdoctoral fellow, and it is also a tough group to get into. “Incoming ISG fellows join a group which at one and the same time is internally highly challenging and hugely supportive,” says Prof Ian Phimister, Head of the UFS ISG. The group fosters a collaborative competitive nature among fellows, PhD, and master’s students, as it allows them to exchange and share ideas with each other. Regular research seminars underpin these exchanges.

The ISG has in the past attracted applications for PhDs/DPhils from leading universities including Oxford, Cambridge, and Stanford, among others. “The ISG is known for producing scholars of the highest standard,” Dr Simabwachi said. “Therefore, the rare opportunity of being trained at UFS under the ISG has earned me recognition as a distinguished scholar of a high standard.”

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