University names residence after child Aids activist

The official opening of Nkosi Johnson House at Stellenbosch Universitys Tygerberg campus.

Stellenbosch University has honoured the legacy of child Aids activist Nkosi Johnson by naming a new student residence after him.

Nkosi Johnson House — home to 200 senior students — is the latest of three new residences built on the Tygerberg campus in the last four years.

The residence boasts energy- and water-saving features that earned it an Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies (EDGE) certification.

“It is fantastic that the university is naming a building after Nkosi,” said Gail Johnson, who fostered Nkosi for nearly 10 years. “He has never received any award in South Africa, and it is the first time that he is being recognised here.”

Nkosi made a powerful impact on the public perceptions of HIV until his death in 2001 at the age of 12.

At the time, he was the longest-surviving child born with HIV.

Stellenbosch University’s rector and vice-chancellor, Professor Wim de Villiers, said the university wanted to acknowledge the important role Nkosi had played.

Professor Jimmy Volmink said the renaming was part of the university’s efforts to be more inclusive.

“The naming of residences is part of a larger, ongoing initiative to make the Tygerberg campus a place every student and staff member can call ‘home.’ In 2014, a participatory process in which our students actively took part, led to the first senior residence on campus being named ‘Huis Ubuntu House’.

“We again followed this inclusive process for naming our new senior residence and were very pleased with the submissions received from students,” he said.

“It is important that we recognise and honour African voices, especially those that contributed to the health sciences,” said medical student Regan Fancensie, who proposed the name for the new residence.

“I’m humbled that my suggestion has been chosen and ecstatic that Nkosi Johnson’s name will live on at Stellenbosch University.

“This is a small step in recognising those who have been affected by HIV. I hope Nkosi Johnson House will remind us of their struggle and motivate us to work towards a health system, and also a society, free of stigma, prejudice, and inequality,” he said.