In the second quarter of 2020, Universities South Africa (USAf) undertook to raise R1 billion in 24 months as a contribution to remedying the perennial financial challenges faced by university students and the higher education sector more generally. On 30 April 2021, the amount raised totalled R 571 080 719, well over half of the target amount.
The CoViD-19 pandemic has exacerbated the financial challenges faced by students and their families. Through its impact on the economy, the pandemic has also placed universities at significant financial risk. In light of this, it was decided to accelerate the fundraising drive by seeking and streamlining new lines of investment in higher education, thus maximising the impact of USAf as the higher education hub.
According to Professor Ahmed Bawa, the Chief Executive Officer, while USAf’s attempts to galvanise additional resources began in 2016, this was intensified with the arrival of Dr Linda Meyer, Director: Operations and Sector Support. Like in so many other areas, the pandemic opened the way for much energy and lateral thinking in the way that higher education addressed its challenges.
Prompted by the added challenges of the sudden shift to emergency remote teaching; students’ struggle to pay their tuition fees, and concerns over the rising student debt to universities (now standing at more than R14 billion), USAf sought partnerships with a number of statutory and private sector institutions to address the challenges. Professor Bawa emphasises that one of the greatest lessons of the pandemic is the need for diverse institutions to come together in partnerships to address large challenges.
The various grants have been or will be channelled to universities for:
- undergraduate and postgraduate student bursaries for 2020 and 2021;
- purchasing laptops for needy students in 2020;
- training insourced security personnel at various institutions and
- sponsoring technological capacity development at universities.
While the banking sector has to be commended for heeding USAf’s call to step in on students’ learning devices in 2020, the bulk of the funds was raised from Sector Education and Training Authorities’ skills development budgets.
The table below shows the source of the funds and how they will be used by the universities.
|Contributor||Project Name||Contract Value 2020 & 2021|
|ABSA||Student Devices||6 000 000,00|
|ETDP SETA||Post Graduate Project 2020 – 2021||80 000 000,00|
|ETDP SETA||Undergraduate Project 2020 – 2021||200 000 000,00|
|ETDP SETA||Universities Leadership Development Programme, 2020 – 2022||35 000 000,00|
|ETDP SETA||Education Bursaries 2021||58 100 000,00|
|ETDP SETA||Student Debt Relief 2021||45 000 000,00|
|ETDP SETA||Customer Services Programme||1 740 719,00|
|FASSET*||Student Debt Relief 2021||45 000 000,00|
|FoodBev *||Student Debt Relief 2021||30 000 000,00|
|SASSETA||Law Clinic Programme||8 400 000,00|
|SASSETA||Student Debt Relief 2021||10 000 000,00|
|SASSETA||Student Debt Relief 2021-||5 000 000,00|
|SASSETA||Student Bursaries 2020||5 390 000,00|
|SASSETA||Student Bursaries 2020||4 900 000,00|
|SASSETA||Security Officers’ Training2021-2022||1 600 000,00|
|Standard Bank||Student Devices 2020||3 500 000,00|
|W&R SETA||Student Debt Relief 2021||31 450 000,00|
|Total||571 080 719,00|
Key to the acronyms
- ETDP SETA – Education, Training and Development Practices Sector Education and Training Authority
- FASSET – Financial and Accounting Services Sector Education and Training Authority
- FoodBev SETA– Food and Beverage Manufacturing Industry Sector Education and Training Authority
- SASSETA – Safety and Security Sector Education and Training Authority
- W&R SETA — Wholesale and Retail Skills Education and Training Authority.
Dr Meyer says even though the targeted amount seems minuscule when viewed in the context of the current student debt owed to universities, the lifeline testimonies from student beneficiaries, and universities, makes USAf’s efforts worthwhile.
Renewing her commitment to realising the R1 billion target by 2022, Dr Meyer reiterates that the need in the sector remains mammoth. For that reason, she continues knocking on new doors and engaging with prospective partners. She applauds the USAf Office for its commitment and support in achieving and exceeding USAf’s contractual obligations to the donors and SETAs.
Professor Bawa says the actions taken by the SETAs, especially the ETDP-SETA, and the banks, demonstrate much commitment to our most talented young people and to higher education more generally. “The development of these partnerships augers very well for the future of our nation,” Professor Bawa sums it all up.
About USAf, Dr Meyer concludes by saying: “It is remarkable to wake up every morning knowing that you work for an organisation that continually changes people’s lives for the better, and which, at its core, only wants the best possible opportunities for everyone in the higher education sector.”
The writer, Nqobile Tembe, is a Communication Consultant contracted to USAf