The Bursary Programme

EDSA was formed in 1990 with the intention of raising bursaries to support individual black students through higher education courses. Since 1990 the scope of support EDSA gives to its partner, The Association for Educational Transformation (ASSET) has expanded to cover funding major educational initiatives and support programmes. However, raising bursaries for individual students who have reached tertiary education remains an essential part of our role.Gary Lock, EDSA trustee, with David Sithole, one of EDSA's bursary studentsGary Lock, EDSA trustee, with David Sithole, one of EDSA's bursary students

The situation at home for many of these young people is often very difficult. Living in tin shacks in the squatter camps, conditions are noisy and overcrowded and homes often lack even the most basic amenities. Students often study at night by the light of a paraffin lamp, while their brothers and sisters sleep. The majority of families are supported by a sole wage earner, sometimes a parent who is a domestic worker or an older brother or sister selling fruit or liquor on the streets. Family income often barely covers subsistence. Many bright young people aspire to study at tertiary level and to gain qualifications which will open the door to opportunities in the workplace. However, the immediate need of the family is often such that they cannot afford to continue their academic studies and are forced to get poorly paid menial work.

Access to bursaries is therefore essential. Without this support many highly motivated and talented young people would be forced to drop out of the educational system. Indeed, many have ended up on the street.

Typical bursars are:

  • Mandisi Nonkonyana who was the top matric student at his school. The family live in a tenement block and his mother supports the family of four working as a cleaner. He needed funds towards subsistence of £200 a year.
  • Michael Mdlankomo lives in a home which provides care for street children and is studying law at the University of the Western Cape. He is an exceptional young man and desperately needed alternative accommodation (£1,000 per year) His ambition is to qualify and to speak for those who do not have a voice.
  • Zamile Khanyiso, a student at the Pen Technikon and Zola Mbaliswana (University of Western Cape) needed to be accommodated on campus because their living conditions and home situation made it impossible to continue their studies living at home. £700 covered Zamile's costs for one year. Zola, who studied dentistry, was entirely dependent on bursaries and £1,500 per year met the shortfall to cover his fees, accommodation and books.

These students and many others like them offer hope for South Africa's future. They are talented and motivated and aspire to qualify in their chosen fields in order to take their place in the new South Africa. Through their determination and hard work they have the potential to break the dreadful cycle of poverty in which their families exist and to create a new life for themselves, their siblings and their communities. Financial support at the level of tertiary education is an investment in their future.