Ntsiki Biko, freedom fighter & widow of Steve Biko, receives honorary doctorate

The university held its 72nd graduation ceremony on Wednesday in Makhanda, where Ntsiki Biko was the recipient of a degree of Doctor of Laws (LLD) (honoris causa).

Bishop of Makhanda, Ebenezer Ntlali anoints Ntsiki Biko following the awarding of the Honorary Doctrate of Laws Degree by Rhodes University at the Steve Biko Centre. Picture: Steve Biko Foundation.

JOHANNESBURG - Ntsiki Biko, anti-apartheid freedom fighter, activist and widow of Black Consciousness Movement co-founder Steve Biko, was conferred an honorary doctorate by Rhodes University for her years of dedicated work.

The university held its 72nd graduation ceremony on Wednesday in Makhanda, where Biko was the recipient of a degree of Doctor of Laws (LLD) (honoris causa).

She is qualified in General Nursing and Midwifery, and has a Diploma in Advanced Nursing Science from the University of South Africa and certifications in nursing from Grey Hospital (geriatric care and HIV/Aids counselling) and Dora Nginza Hospital in Gqeberha (primary health care).

“Deeply rooted in the philosophy of black consciousness and the approach to community development that promotes self-reliance and personal agency, she has played a critical role in giving hope and livelihoods to the communities in which she has worked. Through her community activities, she has touched many lives and helped young and old regain their dignity, self-respect and humanity,” said Rhodes Vice-Chancellor, Sizwe Mabizela.

Biko met her late husband in 1966 while still training as a nurse and the couple had two children together, Nkosinathi and Samora. She later had another child, Bulelwa Lindelwa, in 1988.

Biko worked in various healthcare facilities until her husband's murder in 1977, when she was forced to stop working and was only able to resume work in 1981.

Years after her husband's passing, she spearheaded the establishment of the Steve Biko Foundation, together with her son, Nkosinathi. The Centre is now her primary base for her continuing community activism and she participates consistently in programmes at the Centre including public dialogues, book launches, exhibitions and performances.

"I would like to thank Rhodes University for the honour it has bestowed upon me through the award of a Doctor of Laws (honouris causa), in recognition and celebration of my contribution as a dedicated community activist and advocate for the upliftment of the poor and marginalised, Biko said during her acceptance speech.

She also took time to acknowledge healthcare workers at the frontline of the coronavirus battle.

"I joined nursing in 1966 as a trainee at King Edward VIII Hospital and although I am no longer in uniform, it remains a world in which I am engrossed through the King William’s Town Retired Nurses Association, of which I am an active member.

"Therefore on this occasion, as you kindly celebrate my own contribution to our people, it is appropriate to share that honour with the world that made me. Please join me in paying tribute to our frontline workers – the doctors, nurses, caregivers and the general medical support staff who, collectively, have prioritised our national welfare over theirs. They have gone to battle to stem the tide that threatened our people and they have brought us to the edge of victory."

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