Close to a billion rand for students through NSFAS bursaries Close to a billion rand for students through NSFAS bursaries
The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), through the National Skills Fund (NSF), has been able to open the doors of learning to... Close to a billion rand for students through NSFAS bursaries

The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), through the National Skills Fund (NSF), has been able to open the doors of learning to more than 15 000 academically deserving students. This was achieved by the disbursement of more than R1 billion in bursaries through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) during the 2015/16 financial year.

These students, who have hailed from different walks of life and have studied at different universities in a variety of fields of study, tell inspiring accounts of how the bursaries have changed their lives.

Khethiwe Kunene, who obtained a BEng (Chemical Engineering) from the University of Pretoria, said the bursary afforded her the opportunity to break out of a lifestyle she would have probably never been able to escape.

“This bursary allowed me to pursue my dream of becoming one of the leading female chemical engineers in this country. I am now an inspiration and of great assistance to other young people around me because they see that education opens doors. I now work for Wispeco Aluminium and I am also able to help my parents financially,” she said. “This NSF sponsorship has not only made an impact on my life but also on the lives of my family members and many others who will hear my story or receive aid or advice from me”.

Anza Mugwabana, studying a BTech: Mechanical Engineering at the Vaal University of Technology – Vanderbijlpark Campus, said the NSF bursary allowed him to follow his passion without the financial burden of student fees.

“Having the bursary also gave me the push I needed to do well in my studies as the fear of losing funding was always in the back of my mind. In a way I owe my success in my university studies to the NSF bursary scheme. NSF gave me hope when I had lost all hope of obtaining a qualification”.

Mankosi Singo, who obtained a BCom in Internal Auditing at the University of Pretoria, said the bursary “has changed my life by giving me a platform to further my education and be able to take the next step towards my dream of being a world-renowned Certified Internal Auditor. If it was not for this bursary, I do not think I would have been able to have had a fully paid account and a degree to my name. Today I have a job and will work hard to assist my family financially”.

Singo said the NSF did not just give her money for fees and resources but provided consultants she could talk to, as well as giving her hope “that dreams do actually come true”.

Siphenathi Madlulela, who completed a Bachelor of Administration (BAdmin) and an honours degree from the University of Fort Hare, said the bursary removed the burden caused by financial concerns and reduced the risk of dropping out.

Varsetile Nkwinika, who completed a BSc in Biochemistry and Microbiology at the University of Venda and hopes one day to run a research foundation and build franchised medical hospitals, said the NSF “provided a head-start for achieving my dreams”.

“I am now a confident, budding young medical scientist, inspired to continue learning without boundaries,” said Nkwinika, who is now registered for an honours.

New learning frontiers open up with international scholarships

A number of young South Africans have been able to embark on a life-changing travel and learning opportunity after receiving NSF scholarships to study in China.

All have expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to realise their dreams and to experience a different culture and global perspective.

With the help of a NSF bursary, Busiswa Buso obtained her Masters of Economics in Finance at Zhongnan University of Economics and Law in China.

“Since going to China I have learned to appreciate my country more than I used to. And I have now gained the international exposure and learned what they are doing better than we Africans. With that mentality I am eager to transfer the knowledge gained from China, which I believe will be beneficial.

“When I was still young, my dream was to work for some well-known companies until I came back from China. I realised success is in our hands, all we have to do is to unite, be creative and innovate and promote the spirit of entrepreneurship.

The Chinese economy is rapidly growing through entrepreneurship and innovation, which I believe we as Africans can also do.”

Thamsanqa Mahlobo, a young academic and research analyst in Environmental Resource and Development Economics, completed his Masters in Applied Economics at the College of International Trade and Economics at Hunan University. He has since become a lecturer in Environmental Sustainability at the Durban University of Technology and recently began a second Master’s degree in Regional and Cultural Studies at Hiroshima University in Japan through a Japanese International Corporation Agency scholarship and the African Business Education Initiative.

“I wish the NSF continues to open the eyes of young South Africans to their beauty that goes beyond our shores that indeed proves we can change the world, Mahlobo said.

Octavia Motshwane, who studied for a BCom at Wits, was appointed as an intern at the DHET when she applied to study in China. She obtained a Masters in financial Economics from Shanghai University of Finance and Economics.

“This bursary has provided me with a lifetime of memories, an opportunity to study in another country and today I have a Master’s degree due to the bursary,” Motshwane said.

“I am now ready to find a permanent role in the Financial industry. I am ready to climb the corporate ladder, to learn to be a manager and a CFO in the long run. I appreciate the NSF and the team that took great care of us abroad. The communication was on point and I would ask a lot of questions yet someone would always be there to answer.”

Sharissa Muniappen, who struggled to get accepted for her chosen course at a South African University, obtained an MMBS, Bachelor of Clinical Medicine at Central South University, China and is now on track to become a specialist in Neurology.

“No words would ever be able to express my utmost gratitude to the NSF. Thank you for investing in my future and for helping me to realise my dream.”

Kerillyn Padarath who studied for a MBBS at the Central South University-Xiangya School of Medicine, had similar problems finding a place at a South African University. The bursary relieved the heavy financial burden of her chosen field of study and offered her an opportunity to experience another culture and learn a new language.

“Having lived and studied in China for six years, I was given the opportunity to work with and learn from extraordinary people from all over the world. My university is affiliated to Yale and I had the opportunity of working with research professors and acquiring innovative skills from them. I also experienced the Chinese medical environment which was very different from our medical system.

“The key from the DHET/NSF bursary is opportunity. I am forever grateful for the endless opportunities that I was afforded,” said Padarath, who is hoping to get a PhD in orthopaedic surgery in South Africa.

TUKS now to train more doctors, vets

Responding to the dire shortage of medical and veterinary professionals, significant NSF funding allocations to the University of Pretoria (UP) have given it the opportunity to train more doctors and vets to fill the critical gap.

Estimates by the World Health Organisation in 2012 indicated that Africa carried 25% of the world’s disease burden and had only 1.3% of the world’s health professionals.

The University of Pretoria was accepting just 240 students (220 local and 20 from SADC countries) a year into its medical school and by 2010 was receiving more than 4 300 applications for these places. In 2012 the DHET approved NSF funding of R311 million for UP to increase the number of students admitted for medicine to 350 initially and to grow to 400 over time.

The funding has enabled UP to build a lecture hall, new administrative complex, redevelopment of an existing building, extensions to the library and skills laboratory and construction of a residence.

The project has resulted in a significant increase in capacity at the School of Medicine, with opportunities created annually for 160 students who would otherwise have been turned away due to capacity constraints.

In the Faculty of Health Sciences infrastructure development programme, work on the HW Snyman Complex, Prinshof Campus and the 300-bed residence are all complete.

At the Prinshof campus, a new building located in the parking area south of the BMS Building reached practical completion in the first quarter of 2016.

Completion of this building then made way for construction of the library which commenced in the first quarter of 2016 and significant progress has been made.

The upgrade of the Skills Lab is scheduled to commence in the third quarter of 2016. Savings from the completed Bophelong Residence construction have been earmarked for a pedestrian bridge to link its residence and the Medical campus. Construction will be completed in December 2016. All of the work is expected to be completed by 31 March 2017.

UP, which is the only institution to offer full professional training in veterinary sciences, is able to accept 140 students and various plans have been underway to increase its capacity. The NSF stepped in to help alleviate the dire skills shortage and allocated funding for the extensions to UP’s Faculty of Veterinary Sciences. The investment will result in an annual increase of 50 veterinary science students, resulting in a 36% intake of first year students.

In June 2012, the Department approved an allocation of R113 million from the NSF and the Lesedi Complex was opened in February 2016. The complex includes labs and a residence.

In the Faculty of Veterinary Sciences, the Lesedi Complex which houses the modified lecture facilities, multipurpose student laboratory, skills laboratory, student facilities and expanded Onderstepoort Veterinary Academic Hospital has been completed and the opening ceremony was held in February 2016.

A change request was made to move some funds from satellite clinic facilities towards refurbishing and expansion of the library. This will start as soon as the IT Lab has been moved. Completion of the Library and study work facility is scheduled for December 2017.

Relocation of the IT Lab to the ground floor has commenced and is scheduled for completion by March 2017 and a request for approval of a new approach to satellite clinics is under way.

Blue Sky dreams come true for artisans

NSF funding of aviation and engineering training has allowed hundreds of people to fulfil dreams they never thought possible.

“Never in a million years did I ever imagine that I would disassemble, repair and reassemble a vehicle, never mind an aircraft,” said Zanele Dikko, who is in her second year of training as an aircraft mechanic.

Apart from helping Dikko and others realise their career aspirations, the Denel training programme, which has been expanded over the past three years thanks to generous NSF funding, is also allowing many people without access to funding for education to train for careers in aviation and engineering. With a reputation for innovative research and development and global partnerships, state-owned defence solutions company Denel has become a fertile training ground for people wishing to hone their skills in aviation and engineering-related industries.

Denel has a solid international reputation for its engineering, product development, advanced manufacturing and wider industrial base capabilities, and it has nurtured engineers, technicians and artisans who contribute to key national projects in transportation, construction, power generation and manufacturing.

The Denel Technical Academy (DTA) has, for more than 40 years, offered training for the aviation industry (avionics, radio, electrical, mechanics) and broader engineering trades (toolmakers, machinists, fitters, welders, electricians, millwrights). The vast majority of people who pass through the academy are provided with high level skills for broader industry, while Denel itself absorbs a relatively small percentage of its own training graduates.

Over the past 10 years DTA has trained on average 250 learners per year (2 500 learners). The DTA’s Advanced Technical Training facilities programme has trained 519 delegates in advanced short courses and 222 artisans.

As a state-owned entity, Denel is committed to support the renewal Artisan Development drive by Government and DTA is the primary vehicle for Denel to execute its commitment to youth and skills development.

Based on this commitment, it applied for NSF funding to increase the intake of learners into its training programmes. This funding enabled it to provide facilities for learners who cannot afford to pay for their own studies and resulted in it recruiting 38 learners in 2014 and 73 learners in 2015 for focused training in aircraft avionics, electrics, mechanics and structural work, as well as in general electronics, fitting and turning, machine tooling, welding and tool-making. At the end of 2015 it took on a further 65 learners, with 59 placed in its academy and six placed in on-the-job training, where a number of people from previous years’ intake are now in training at different companies after completing their theory training.

The funding has enabled Denel to leverage its existing capabilities to significantly increase the number of qualified artisans and professionals produced through its training programmes targeting the unemployed and underemployed.

The NSF-funded programme at Denel has allowed people like Mpho Sebola to focus on education rather than on financing.

Sebola, who is an aircraft structural work apprentice doing a second on-the-job apprenticeship at Denel Aerostructures, is planning to pursue a career in the aviation industry.

The itukise internship programme for unemployed graduates

The Skills for the Economy unit in the Department of Trade and Industry (the DTI) developed the Itukise Internship Programme for Unemployed Graduates to provide unemployed graduates with the opportunity to gain work experience to increase their employability.

The funding of Itukise was facilitated through a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between the DTI and the National Skills Fund (NSF) of the Department of Higher Education & Training (DHET) to the value of R71 million over a two-year period. These funds were utilised primarily for the monthly stipends of the participants, and were channelled through the DTI’s contracted implementing agent.

Itukise provides much-needed work experience through a twelve (12) month internship in companies with the capacity to provide experiential learning to unemployed graduates so that they have a fair chance to compete for jobs on a more level playing field as most employers stipulate work experience as part of their selection criteria.

According to the DTI the delivery of the project encompassed 244 host entities across the nine provinces and across 10 industry sectors participated and provided the necessary work experience to approximately 1 129 unemployed graduates and 322 in-service trainees.

In March 2016 the DTI successfully hosted a certification ceremony where Minister Dr Rob Davies awarded certificates of participation to the graduate interns.

Approximately 418 participants have already gained full-time employment at the host entities and elsewhere largely through the programme. The DTI will continue to track the employment absorption of the interns.

Multi-million programme trains North West province artisans

Artisans in the North West Province have benefited from an R42.8 NSF-funded programme which provided training, based upon the needs of the province, its various sectors and people.

The Sizimisele-Seto Joint Venture North West Discretionary and Innovation Project put in place various training interventions between April 2012 and March 2016 to create a pool of artisans.

The programme targeted 483 employed and unemployed people across four district municipalities in the province, and achieved a high level of success with a 91% completion rate. The average competency rate attained by apprentices across all trades was 80% for learnerships and 89% for professional qualifications.

Specific objectives included the delivery of 240 apprenticeships, 242 learnerships/professional qualifications and the training of 42 people with disabilities.

The programme was aligned to the National Skills Development Strategy and other skills development initiatives.

Sizimisele-Sesto identified and delivered on a number of scarce and critical skills including professional skills (local government accounting and clothes manufacturing) and technical skills (mechanical, electrical and construction artisans, welding and radiation protection specialists and engineering technicians).

The project also identified North West Province for the development of critical skills, and its strategy was aimed at providing communities in the province with the opportunity to develop their skills and work ethic to gain meaningful employment once the project was complete.

Sizimisele-Seto garnered input from training providers, North West Department of Public Works and Roads, North West Department of Local Government and Traditional Affairs, host employers and artisan monitoring specialists to ensure it was delivering the correct training.

The Sizimele-Seto JV has laid the foundation for training and development of previously disadvantaged individuals, set up a network of host employers and built and maintained relationships with stakeholders. As the project ran in conjunction with a slowing economy, the joint venture implemented a number of contingencies including learner work rotations, assertive negotiation tactics to ensure time frames and budgets were adhered to, successful discussions with the province to augment learner stipends and budget management.

The skills interventions of this project placed the province in a favourable position to enlarge its local and global market share in business, markets and industry. It has provided the province with skills it sorely requires in local government accounting, mechanical, electrical and construction disciplines and textile and energy sector skills.

It is expected the project will result in increased employment opportunities and enable beneficiaries to improve their personal and economic welfare in the longerterm. They have completed the project well-equipped to enter the job market with sought after skills, and are also now in a position to further their education after gaining national qualifications as professionals and getting exposure to various sectors.

Rural youth learn valuable lessons from China on poverty

An ambitious plan for youth development, aimed at leading to the employment of more than 10 000 people, has enabled some participants to go to China to learn about poverty alleviation strategies.

The National Rural Youth Services Corps (NARYSEC) programme, made possible through NSF funding of R161 million, is aimed at addressing the challenges of skills development and unemployment for rural youth and job creation for rural communities.

As part of strengthening the programme the National Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DLDLR) has entered into a service level agreement with the China’s Poverty Alleviation Centre to train officials and youth on strategies that have been used to fight poverty.

Some NARYSEC participants were lucky enough to attend a two-week programme with lectures on China Policy on poverty alleviation and a visit to alleviation projects (especially agricultural projects) in different provinces relevant to South African situations.

NARYSEC, forming part of the National Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DLDLR) programme, was aimed at recruiting and developing youth.

It focused on youth aged between 18 and 35, with a grade 10 or higher and who live in rural areas, to be trained as paraprofessionals in rural areas. The initial objective was to train six people, or a seventh person if they were disabled, in each of the 2872 rural wards, leading to the employment of more than 10 000 people.

Areas of skills development include building and construction, business administration, engineering, renewable energy, automotive repair, community housing, early childhood development, clothing manufacturing, farming, nature conservation, public administration and tourism and hospitality.

The objective was to:

  • Organise youth through the construction of youth life skills hubs serving as
  • youth empowerment centres;
  • enable rural youth to play a role in the transformation of rural communities by participating in the roll out and implementation of the Comprehensive Rural Development Programme (CRDP);
  • create a major countrywide revolution for socio-economic freedom through nation building and community service; and
  • promote a result-oriented national rural youth service and thereby build patriotism and social cohesion.

Specific objectives were to develop skills, learnerships, apprenticeships and practical work experience and ensure NQF accreditation. While the programme was expected to evolve over time, one of the key objectives was community service by all the participants in their own communities.

All NARYSEC participants were also expected to carry out household profiling to collect data which would be used by the Department of Social Development for planning and prioritising service delivery.

The programme outlined various phases of the programme of action, from foundation skills to actual artisan skills and finishing skills, like administration, budgeting and business skills. The NARYSEC participants would also be trained in becoming entrepreneurs and setting up their own businesses.

NARYSEC encourages participants to form co-operatives and businesses before their contracts end, and among the most exciting elements of the programme, for those involved in business and co-operatives, is a two-week study tour of China, where the DRDLR has a service level agreement with the China’s Poverty Alleviation Centre to train officials and youth on strategies that have been used to fight poverty.

KZN rural youth get access to key skills

The NSF in partnership with Furniture World Private TVET College held a graduation ceremony at Suncoast Casino in Durban on the 3rd of December 2015 where a total of 246 learners from rural areas of Mtubatuba and Ezingolweni graduated in different fields such as construction, cabinet making, upholstery, agriculture, clothing and early childhood Development.

The project was conceptualised around three provinces, North West, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal. The aim was to provide skills development and training interventions including learnerships.

The project targeted 2 000 beneficiaries in three provinces – North West (600), Limpopo (700) and KwaZulu-Natal (700), and aimed to produce self-employed and employable individuals or groups who will form co-operatives. Learners would also be assisted to apply their skills to community development projects in order to promote skills transfer. The project started in October 2012 and ended in December 2015.

Prior to the graduation ceremony, the National Skills Fund, together with Furniture World, local municipalities and traditional leaders handed over two houses to destitute families in Mtubatuba and Ezingolweni. These houses were built by learners to give back to the community.

In Mtubatuba, two houses were built for learners to use as storerooms and offices during the aftercare period. School uniforms and early childhood development equipment was also donated to different schools in the area. All this was done by the learners during training.

As part of the exit strategy package, all machinery and equipment that was used by the learners during training was left on the training sites so that learners could use those sites as skills centres and offices. As part of the exit strategy for the graduates,

NSF supported these learners for six months to ensure they start and register their Businesses and co-ops. This support included mentoring by Furniture World, the provision of start-up kits and help with proper registration of businesses.

Editor