During the past few months we have observed with great concern as various universities across the country experienced sustained student protests for free education. In some universities the 2016 academic year is in danger of being lost.
We empathize with the plight of students whose parents are not able to fund their university education. While the government annually allocates billions of rand to provide access to higher education, it is clear that more needs to be done.
At Barclays Africa, we recognize the importance of education and skills training to socioeconomic development throughout Africa. That is why this is one of the three pillars of our Shared Growth strategy that we launched earlier this year, where we committed R1.4 billion to education and skills training across Africa over the next three years.
As part of this commitment, for 2016 we have invested R49 million mostly in historically black universities* in South Africa. R23 million is for tuition fees for what is termed the “missing middle” reaching approximately 550 students, including 114 scholarships awarded to children of Barclays Africa staff. These are students who either have a shortfall on their National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding or whose parents can only afford a portion of their student fees. R26 million has been invested in university research and capacity building.
However in light of the current university protests we recognize that something needs to be done now to alleviate the plight of more students in need of financial assistance. We have therefore decided to contribute an additional R57 million towards the settlement of the 2016 student debt for approximately 1450 students in seven universities** across South Africa. This is at an average of R40 000 per student. This brings our total contribution to student tuition for this year to R80 million and R106 million in total assistance to universities.
From next year we will increase our contribution to an average R70 000 per student, providing assistance to 3000 students across our markets in Africa, a R210 million investment.
We know that our contribution is not enough to resolve the problem for every student but as a large corporate citizen we recognize the special responsibility we have to increase our support.
We call upon students and universities to do everything they can to save the current academic year. Should this year be lost, it will be very difficult to accommodate a new intake next, further compounding the problem of access to higher education.
Education is the foundation of social and economic development. The inequalities of our society place a responsibility upon all of us to find an equitable funding formula where priority is given to deserving students who do not have the means to pay some or all of their tuition fees.
We are also mindful that the challenges in education are broad and not limited to financial barriers to entry into higher education. The basic education system is critical to the success of the post-school education. We recommit ourselves to continuing to work together with governments and other stakeholders to secure quality education to Africa’s young people to support economic development.