Government continues to set education as an apex priority, said President Jacob Zuma at the launch of the Thusanani Foundation at Wits University.
By Nthambeleni Gabara
“We do this because of our conviction that education remains a pillar of development for our society,” he said.
The Thusanani Foundation is a youth-led non-profit organisation that aims to bridge the educational information gap between rural high school learners and their urban counterparts through a four pillar holistic approach to learner development.
President Zuma said Thusanani is important because it speaks to an important collaboration between government and the community sector and academia, in promoting youth education and empowerment.
He said through the Department of Higher Education, government committed to ensure that no poor and academically deserving young person should ever miss out on a study opportunity in institutions because of their financial background.
President Zuma said government is doing much to assist learners, singling out the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, the Funza Lushaka student support scheme, the bursaries supporting social workers and the medical doctors.
“Organisations such as the Thusanani Foundation remind us that no academically deserving learner must ever be excluded from the higher education system simply on the basis of his or her parents’ socio-economic status,” he said.
President Zuma also announced that Thusanani Foundation and the Department of Higher Education and Training will be launching two scholarships namely, the Pixley ka Isaka Seme Scholarship Fund and the Johnstone Mfanafuthi Makhatini International Scholarship Fund.
The Pixley ka Isaka Seme Scholarship Fund aims to provide academically deserving but financially needy youth from townships and rural areas with scholarships to further their studies in public institutions of higher learning.
This will empower them to pursue their studies in scarce skills programmes in universities.
Former African National Congress (ANC) President, Seme, was an orator, lawyer, intellectual and author, who can rightfully be called the founder of the ANC, according to President Zuma.
The Johny Makhathini International Scholarship Fund is a direct response to the commitment by the Department of Higher Education and Training to send rural and township students abroad in order to address the country’s areas of skills shortages such as renewable energy, nuclear, gas, maritime and rail engineering.
This is aimed at growing the country’s skills base as informed by the National Scarce Skills list published by the department in May this year and the National Development Plan (NDP).
Makhathini was a pillar of the country’s efforts to lobby the international community particularly the Western Europe countries against the apartheid government. He was so instrumental that he was later appointed to head the ANC mission to the United Nations in 1977.
“We therefore believe that this is but a step in the right direction in helping to develop our country.
It has become critically important that our youth take ownership and play an active role in breaking the cycle of poverty and restoring the dignity of rural and township communities across South Africa,” said President Zuma.
According to the President, the partnership should aim at promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics in schools.
“This partnership should therefore address this challenge through targeting learners early in their schooling life and encourage them to make the right subject choices and to follow career paths that are built upon sound subject choices and hard work.
“I am also happy that this partnership is also aiming to promote vocational skills and artisan development as a career path of choice,” he said.
The NDP makes it clear that the war on unemployment, poverty and inequality needs a collective effort from government, the private sector and civil society.
“This partnership therefore between Thusanani Foundation and the department of higher education speaks to this multiple stakeholder approach to development,” said President Zuma.
Founder and CEO of Thusanani Foundation, Mukovhe Masutha, said: “There is a very big educational information gap that exists between rural high school learners and their urban counterparts.
“This lack of information and motivation creates a spirit of hopelessness and discouragement amongst rural youth, which in turn impacts negatively on their academic performance. We established the foundation to respond to these challenges.”
Since 2011, Thusanani has evolved from a two-man initiative into a registered non-profit organisation with over 1 000 volunteers in five institutions of higher learning across South Africa, reaching out to over 35 000 high school learners in rural KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Eastern Cape, Free State and in certain informal settlements in Gauteng. – SAnews.gov.za