Against the Odds

Associate Professor Maano Ramutsindela of the Department of Environmental and Geographical Science won a National Research Foundation (NRF) Special Category Award in 2013 in recognition of his efforts in overcoming major challenges to get to where he is today. The award is focused on transforming the science cohort to be more representative of South African demographics.

As many black South Africans scientists can attest, the path to academic success is not always a smooth one. No-one knows this better than Associate Professor Ramutsindela. Born to a poor Limpopo family of seven children, he started his schooling at age nine in a mud building. After matriculating, he spent a year working as a full-time teacher assistant to raise money for his university fees. Studying under apartheid conditions when his alma mater (University of the North) was under siege by the South African security forces, Ramutsindela nonetheless managed 11 subject distinctions and went on to complete his honours degree, going abroad to do his PhD at Royal Holloway College of the University of London on a Canon Collins Trust Scholarship.

At UCT, he became one of the first group of social scientists to be awarded an NRF P-rating for young researchers (usually under 40) in 2002, the first black geographer to edit the South African Geographical Journal and the first African to be elected a Fellow of the Society of South African Geographers. His work to transform the field has extended globally. As editorial board member for several leading journals, Associate Professor Ramutsindela is the representative of and voice for Africa on environmental and geographical matters. He has also earned international recognition, including the Distinguished Hubert H Humphrey Visiting Chair at Macalester College in the US.

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