In a bold move, faith-based Sanzaf is providing university bursaries for school leavers with lower Grade 12 results than they accepted before. In addition, a new mentorship programme matches university students with graduates in the same field.
“We want to reach out to the most marginalised beneficiaries,” says Mr Hoosen Essof, Programme Administrator at SANZAF, a national faith-based development and relief organisation.
“This year, we are taking on students with lower APS scores and also providing a new form of support. Students with lower APS scores come from particular circumstances and environments, that they may not have created themselves. Given the opportunity, they may excel, or may just do well enough to pass and move on,” he says.
From 2015, SANZAF is considering students with APS scores between 25 and 30 for its university bursary programme. Until 2014 students required a minimum APS score of 30 points to qualify for bursaries.
“Supporting students with lower APS scores can potentially affect the pass rate of the students we support. So we need to have an intervention and support programme in place,” continues Essof.
Up to 2014, school-leavers and students could apply for SANZAF support if their household’s income was below R10, 000 per month. Though the APS requirement is now adjusted, the income requirement remains the same for 2015. SANZAF has been awarding university bursaries for the last 40 years.
“Those with very low household income also need to be awarded bursaries, to be able to move on in life. Otherwise we will have another generation of mainly ‘middle-class’ students moving through universities,” says Essof.
“This is where we invest as an organisation. Our mission is to take care of the poorest of the poor. And the poorest are those, who by circumstance would achieve less academically than they would otherwise. Here is an opportunity to say ‘let’s help you get out of that’.”
Mentorship from the profession
The students with lower APS scores who receive SANZAF bursaries have to participate in the new support, monitoring and invention programmes, as a condition of the bursaries, says Ms Nerosha Ahmed, HR and Bursary Coordinator at SANZAF.
All students who receive SANZAF bursaries are matched with graduates from similar fields, who also came through the SANZAF bursary scheme or are professionals who offer their services on a volunteer basis, she says.
“Students doing accounting are matched with accountants, for example. The mentors introduce themselves via SMS, email or telephone, and set up at least four face-to-face meetings during the year. They also stay in contact right through the year,” says Ahmed.
Opportunity + responsibility = moving on
SANZAF’s approach is to build a relationship of trust with each student, says Essof.
“We carry the students through the entire university career. We take them from whatever year they join us, which is typically first year, up to the final year.
“Our job is to help you, the student, in whatever way that is practical. Your job, as the student, is to do what needs to be done to move on. I think that has made some difference to the life of the students.”
Concludes Essof: “We can actually boast an average 94% pass rate for our university students over the last nine years. Our decision to support selected students with textbooks and computers in the last two years is based on that. If we’re making an investment of R45, 000 a year in one student, an additional R3 000 may not take us out of pocket, but it will take the student so much further.”
The whole spectrum
Education from early childhood development, though to schools and FET colleges, as well as university qualifications is supported by SANZAF.