The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) fully supports the notion of increased access to career advice for South African youth. NSFAS administers loans and bursaries to disadvantaged students for tertiary study, but in addition to the economic support offered by our organisation, NSFAS further deems it of utmost importance to liaise with key partners in the field of career guidance to offer a more holistic approach to further education in South Africa.
Without adequate study guidance from a young age, many youth remain unaware about their options to pursue further education regardless of their financial need. In an effort to bridge this gap and to ensure greater support of uninformed youth, as of 2011 NSFAS will be partnering with a key organisation in this industry, namely, the SAQA Career Advice Centre. This Centre offers learners information on career planning, study options, financing and more and provides a hotline number for telephone queries on 0860 111 673 and an SMS line on 072 204 5056.
In addition, NSFAS continues to build solid relationships with partners and NGOs with present access into rural and disadvantaged communities around South Africa. These partners play critical roles in distributing information about NSFAS financial aid to impoverished societies as well as offering increased learning and social support of youth with an interest in further education.
Why is it important to reach rural youth?
The youth in poor and rural communities often lack exposure to media such as the Internet, newspapers, television and public libraries. As a result they may not be well informed about higher education opportunities, financial aid available to them, or different career options.
Role models play an important role in assisting young people in making decisions about future careers. Rural, marginalised youth, however, seldom have the opportunity to meet people working in fields they may dream about. After all, a remote rural community is unlikely to include a Chartered Accountant, a mechanical engineer – or even a plumber.
Many school leavers are further excluded from higher education because they cannot afford the application and registration fees or even travel costs to the institution. Given all of these inhibiting factors, the chances of success for marginalised students can thus be greatly improved if access to higher education includes a more holistic package of academic and personal support in addition to the NSFAS award in order to bridge any gaps that may exist.
The aim of NSFAS is thus to encourage existing organisations with a focus on youth development in outlying or poorer communities to partner with us. Together we can create awareness and access for the youth of these areas to pursue tertiary studies without the burden of financial need.
Finding hope through despair
Isaah Alexy Mhlanga was one such financially deprived learner from Soweto who thought he would have to rely on good academic performance alone to ensure a place to study after school because he came from a financially needy family. His father could not afford university fees but thanks to the support he received from Investec Bank’s CSI department, Isaah qualified for funding administered through one of the partner organisations of NSFAS, namely Studietrust, and NSFAS was further able to assist Isaah with his study related costs to complete his undergraduate degree in Economics. And while studying, he came third in the Nedbank and Old Mutual Budget Speech competition, and got the chance to meet the then Finance Minister, Trevor Manuel.
Every learner has the right to access education and with the help of NSFAS and its partner organisations, thousands of needy learners like Isaah are daily hearing about the possibilities of further education and financial aid to pursue their dream careers. Isaah’s advice to young people: “Get those results - good results - and don't give up. Do your research and apply for bursaries or financial aid as early as you can.” Today he is employed as an economist for the International Monetary Fund www.imf.org.
How can your organisation partner with NSFAS?
If your NGO or careers advice centre is currently involved in youth-related work, and if you have the capacity to assist NSFAS www.nsfas.org.za in creating awareness about study options and financial assistance to benefit youth from outlying, rural or deprived communities in South Africa, contact the Communications and Outreach Officer at NSFAS, Bonny Feldman, on email@example.com to find out how you can be a part of implementing change in South Africa.
- Bonny Feldman is communications and outreach officer at NSFAS.