Sister Act: The Rhodes Scholar Edition

We spoke with Naseemah Mohamed, who in 2013 will follow in her sister's footsteps as an awardee.

Naseemah Mohamed (Courtesy Naseemah Mohamed)
Naseemah Mohamed (Courtesy Naseemah Mohamed)

As a Harvard student, she was also the president of the African Students Association, co-directed the Pan African Drum and Dance Ensemble and made time for personal pursuits like ice skating and poetry recitals.

Naseemah said after the University of Oxford in England, where all Rhodes scholars study, her focus will be on improving education in her home country of 12.6 million people, a nation with a median age of under 19 years old. 

“I would ideally like to work with an international education institution to get exposed to different education systems around the world, as well as the technical work that organizations such as UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] or the OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] carry out. I would really like my work to focus on developing nations, including Zimbabwe and other African countries.” 

It’s a desire borne of her own experience. “Having at one stage not been a high achiever, I empathize with students who haven’t discovered their full potential,” she said. “Winning the Rhodes for me is a testimony of the power of education opportunities in making the dreams one thought were never possible come true.”

The scholarships were established in 1903 under terms of the will of British philanthropist Cecil Rhodes. Naseemah is one of 15 black Rhodes scholars for 2013; fellow Zimbabwean Dalumuzi Mhlanga is also a 2013 Scholar. Some 7,000 Rhodes scholars have made their mark in various endeavors in public life, including Newark Mayor Cory Booker, former President Bill Clinton and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.

Michael E. Ross is a regular contributor to The Root and the author of American Bandwidth, on the Obama campaign and presidency. He blogs on national affairs at Short Sharp Shock.