Bringing hope to those who need it

Friday, June 13, 2014

Every year, hundreds of young people have to fight financial battles just to get a place at higher education institutions. Some give up on their dreams of having a career simply because they cannot afford steep study fees. But the new Solomon Mahlangu Scholarship Fund, unveiled by the National Youth Development Agency recently, is set to bring hope to many needy students, writes Neo Semono.

Although he met an untimely and cruel death by hanging 35 years ago, the name of struggle stalwart Solomon Mahlangu will never be forgotten for it is under his name that youths like Naledi Khoza are pursuing their dreams.

The first year Wits student is among the over 100 beneficiaries of the Solomon Mahlangu Scholarship Fund (SMSF) which is run by the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA). The R10 million fund, launched officially by President Jacob Zuma in March, provides financial support to young people wishing study at an institution of higher learning.

In 2011, Khoza obtained her matric certificate and applied to Wits University for admission even though her parents could not afford to pay for her studies.

But, in 2013 she decided to improve her grades and so she registered for the NYDA’s National Senior Certificate (NSC) 2nd Chance programme which affords young people who failed their matric an opportunity to obtain their NSC.

“I had to find a way that would land me a scholarship or a bursary,” said Khoza, who will be turning 21 this year.

While she was in the process of upgrading her Maths, Physical Science and Accounting marks she learnt about the Fund. Khoza obtained 91% for Maths, 85% for Accounting and 72% for Physical Science. This automatically landed her the scholarship.

Excited and overwhelmed, she registered for her Bachelor of Science (BSc) three-year degree at Wits. Mathematics and Economics are the majors and the subjects that will give her the critical scarce skills needed to grow the South African economy.

“It’s going to put me exactly where I want to be in terms of the career path that I want to follow. It’s my passion, it is exactly what I want to study.”

Khoza wants to be a quantitative analyst, an achievement which may one day mean a lot to her working class parents and four siblings.

She would be the first one in her family to graduate from university.

The scholarship not only pays registration and tuition fees but also meets accommodation needs to the beneficiaries. In addition, the fund also pays for stationery, textbooks and meals.

Beneficiaries are required to submit their academic results to the NYDA every semester.

Even though the workload at university is substantially more than that of a high school pupil, Khoza is determined to keep up with the pace of lectures to ensure she gets good grades as she points out that it’s quite easy to fall behind.

While she spends most of her days with her nose stuck in a book, three of her four siblings are continuing with their high and primary school studies.

While she wants to work for financial companies like Stanlib and Old Mutual, this ambitious youth is aware that not all people are able to achieve what she has been able to achieve so far.

“We all have different dreams and goals, but it is not all about getting a higher education because there are other opportunities such as entrepreneurship and that’s how the NYDA is intervening to make sure that those dreams are also possible. Not all of us can make it to university,” she says.

Solomon Mahlangu was 23 at the time of his death in the gallows. “My blood will nourish the tree that will bear the fruits of freedom. Tell my people that I love them and that they must continue the fight,” were his reported last words.

Khoza says it is important that young people remember what Mahlangu fought for. The scholarship is a fitting honour to acknowledge his belief in education.

“I saw some video clips about him. I actually didn’t know about him. [His life] is an inspiration for the youth to acknowledge and appreciate the person that the scholarship is named after,” says Khoza.

It was important for the youth to know how far South Africa has come. “We shouldn’t just look at the things that people complain about. There are a whole lot of opportunities in this country,” says Khoza. –


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