Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.Nelson Mandela
The key to breaking the vicious cycle of poverty is education. The Motsepe Foundation recognises this and is committed to supporting and developing innovative solutions, leadership activities, internships and development programmes and other initiatives that will enhance education, sustain and provide opportunities for the benefit of the current and emerging generation of leaders within our communities.
Through partnerships, we engage and connect with private, public, community-based, religious and faith-based organisations to identify and support talented and deserving individuals. The Motsepe Foundation has awarded bursaries covering tuition, books, accommodation and allowances to 735 students over the last two years from the 26 Motsepe Foundation Development Forums that have been established in the nine provinces throughout South Africa. These bursaries have been awarded to students studying mainly in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Business studies.
Our focus is informed by the deficit in the areas of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) in South Africa. By providing bursaries in this area, we will be making a contribution to improve skills in evolving capacity that can make a positive contribution to the economic growth of the country, and giving opportunity to students who would otherwise not have been able to pursue their study dreams.
The amount spent on these students in 2014 is approximately R16.5 million, and will exceed R58.5 million in 2015. The total commitment to these students over a period of four to five years is approximately R150 million. The Foundation acknowledges that there are many well-publicised problems, among them infrastructure shortages like school buildings, the shortage of properly qualified teachers, poor resources in classrooms, poor teacher performance and poor learner standards.
The government alone cannot address all of these issues, and this is why partnerships with the private sector and Foundations like the Motsepe Foundation are so critical. Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has admitted that South Africa’s education system is still facing serious challenges, and has reiterated that her department is dealing with them.
Even as the country celebrated 20 years of democracy in 2014, it is clear that the scars of apartheid structured education in South Africa are deep. In post 1994, the South African government formulated a programme of restructuring the education system on principles of equity, human rights, democracy and sustainable development.
Statistics show that about 12 million children in South Africa live in poverty, with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) in South Africa reporting that 12 million children live in poverty, with 40% of them having growth problems – including cognitive development.
Although South Africa spends about 20 percent of its budget on education, ( 6.4 percent of GDP), which is more than many other developing countries, the country ranks quite low in international comparisons. The World Economic Forum’s competitiveness index for 2012–2013 ranks South Africa’s overall education system at 140 out of 144 countries, and its maths and science education at 143 out of 144
Research has found that in the Eastern Cape learning deficits between the richest 20% of South Africa’s students and the average student grow as children move through the school system until they reach a zone of what is termed improbable progress, a point where the possibility of passing matric is virtually non-existent. (South Africa’s Education Crisis: The quality of education in South Africa 1994-2011. Nicholas Spaull. Report Commissioned by CDE. October 2013).
There are myriad reasons for the state of education in the country. But the challenges must be confronted. The deficits inherited from the apartheid education structures have created massive imbalances. This has made it even more critical for organisations like the Motsepe Foundation to work harder to deal with the challenges brought on by that system.
No doubt, the government is working hard at finding solutions and implementing programmes to deal with these challenges. Poverty is one of the biggest problems facing South Africa, with close to 50% of South Africans living below the poverty line, and unemployment is officially stated at 25,7%. This excludes those who are employed but earn too little to fully support their families. But even more crititically, 2,4-million young people between the ages 18 to 25 are unemployed.
The Motsepe Foundation will continue to make its own contribution to making the lives of our children, and therefore our country, better. This is done through providing bursaries in critical areas like maths, science and technology, but also supporting institutions through programmes and partnerships to improve STEM literary and capacity.