One of the biggest challenges that South Africa has been facing over the past two years has been dealing with student protests which are being conducted over demands for free education.
But what is being done to address the student’s concerns?
At the heart of the student’s anger is their belief that education is expensive and effectively excludes a large portion of the population who are desperate to get an education so that their lives can hopefully improve.
Government is trying its best to meet the student’s demands in the best way that they can, but what is clear is that there needs to be some support from the private sector to assist this.
One of the companies in the private sector, in this case an association, which is stepping up to the plate and pledging its support is the Association of Savings and Investment South Africa (ASISA).
Through the Ikusasa Student Financial Aid Programme (ISFAP), ASISA hopes to make a meaningful impact on society.
Speaking at a media briefing at the end of January, ASISA CEO Leon Campher painted a picture of the programme and who the possible beneficiaries will be.
The programme is aimed at students entering into tertiary institutions who come from households that earn less than R600 000/y. Depending on where the student is on the poverty scale, they will either receive full funding, while those higher up on that scale will receive less funding.
Campher reported that this funding would depend on the student passing the subject matter of the course in question. However, when I pressed Campher about whether funding would be taken away from students should they not pass, he said that other interventions would be put in place whereby a student who is struggling to pass one particular course will be registered for another course.
Critical focal points
This financial assistance works hand-in-hand with the struggling National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). However, while NSFAS concentrates on students studying any degree at University level, the ISFAP will focus on education in jobs that are seen as critical skills areas that the country needs.
In addition, students will also be offered internships from companies within the industry so that they can get work experience which would complement their learning.
A pilot project
This is an ambitious programme and would go a long way in improving the lives of students in the country. However, it must be noted that this programme is being run this year as a pilot project to see if it can work.
Campher points out that the pilot project is being run this with 2 000 students across five universities (both urban and rural) and one Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) college. According to Campher, the pilot project costs R200 million and is being funded entirely by the private sector.
However, Sizwe Nxasana – CEO of First Rand Limited – was meeting with Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande at the time that the press briefing was being held to discuss the future of the project where government would play a role.
A mammoth task
This is all positive news and ISFAP will no doubt make a poignant impact on the life of the students involved.
But the following needs to be taken into account. The pilot project is being done to test the sustainability of the project and how the budgeting will work going forward.
However, Campher handed over to Terence Berry (Principal at ASISA) who pointed out that there are currently an estimated one million students in the system of which 60% fall into the R600 000 thresh hold that ASISA would assist. That means that should the pilot project be a success, 598 000 students would be entering into the ISFAP programme. This is significantly more than the current 2 000.
There is no doubt that the intentions of ASISA are noble in nature, and everyone in the industry hopes that the programme is a success. However, the following needs to be said; the task ahead is massive, and the final programme would be demonstrably bigger than the pilot. This needs to be at the front of ASISA’s mind and not at the back.
The above statement is merely an observation. ASISA needs be commended for taking the reins in this regard. If other companies can think in this way, we can make this country great again without the help of government. Please comment below, interact with us on Twitter at @fanews_online or email me your thoughts firstname.lastname@example.org.