R840m raised to help needy students gain scarce skills
IOL - NEWS / 22 FEBRUARY 2020 - 15:55 / SIPHO MABASO
Johannesburg - Top students studying towards a career in scarce skills required for South Africa’s economic development, but who cannot afford to pay for their tuition and other educational needs, have received a lifeline through the Ikusasa Student Financial Aid Programme (ISFAP).
The ISFAP, headed by its chairman, former FirstRand CEO Sizwe Nxasana, and supported by 40 donors, public and private sector entities, has raised R840m to help deserving students who wish to pursue university studies in scarce-skills professions such as accountanting, engineering, actuarial science, as well as medicine and healthcare fields at 12 partner institutions in South Africa.
ISFAP chairman Sizwe Nxasana. Picture: Supplied
About 1800 students have been assisted to further their studies, among them 143 graduates who are part of the ISFAP programme have either graduated or are set to graduate this year and enter the job market.
“When we launched ISFAP as a pilot programme at the height of the 2017 #FeesMustFall crisis, we could not have foreseen the huge role we would play in the national effort to solve the funding challenge of ‘missing middle’ students," said Nxasana, who at one point headed up the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.
ISFAP was established, through the recommendation of the Ministerial Task Team, to develop a sustainable funding model for the higher education costs of South Africa's missing-middle students, who are not abjectly poor enough to receive government funding, yet not rich enough to afford bank loans, and could therefore not pursue tertiary studies.
ISFAP provides funding for tuition, accommodation, transport, meals, books, equipment and a stipend for incidental living expenses.
The programme also offers additional academic, social and psychological support, such as mentoring and life skills training, to give students support in every area in order to ensure their success and work readiness.
This approach, which involves all-round support is known as the wrap-around model of support, which has enabled the programme to achieve a significantly higher rate of success and lower drop-out rate, said Nxasana.
Tshokolo Nchocho, CEO of the Industrial Development Corporation, one of the key donors to the ISFAP, said: “So much money gets wasted by students spending more time than necessary to complete their degrees. ISFAP’s ecosystem of student support dramatically reduces this. We are proud to fund a programme that helps students succeed in record time."
Professor Adam Habib, the vice chancellor of the University of Witwatersrand, where some of the students supported by ISFAP have graduated and others are pursuing their studies in various academic streams, said a university education was valuable in South Africa.
“Around 8.2 million of SA's 20.4 million young people are not in employment, education or training. Yet SA's graduate unemployment rate is between 6% & 7.5%. We simply can't discount the value of higher education and why it is so crucial for the private and public sector to partner in order to reimagine how to fund higher education for our youth.”
Njabulo Prosperity Shabangu, a beneficiary of the ISFAP and a final year nursing student at the Tshwane University of Technology said she felt fortunate and was grateful for the assistance she received from the fund.
“As a top matric, it was devastating to spend a year at home because my parents couldn’t afford to further my education. You can just imagine my disappointment and fear that my dreams would never come true. But thanks to ISFAP, I will soon realise those dreams as I walk away with a degree that will help me further my future.”
ISFAP’s founding members include Business Leadership South Africa, Banking Association of South Africa, Association of Savings and Investments in South Africa, the National Treasury, FirstRand Foundation and the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants.
** To contribute to ISFAP, email: email@example.com
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