#Solutionsmustrise may provide answers to the crisis in education

Left to right: Sharri Cannell, Sean-Michael Bhikha, Roger Dickinson, Russell Dickinson and Janine Aitken.

South Africans were reeling in shock as the #feesmustfall protest played out on our television screens last year. Many of us looked on in disbelief at the carnage captured by reporters.

Burning buses, attacks on students demanding lower fees at various tertiary institutions across the country.

The government was seen to have reneged on promises to make fees affordable to students pursuing various fields of study and campuses erupted in violence.

As a result, students at the frontlines were arrested on charges of public violence and the like and could therefore not write their exams.

While this debate is ongoing, community leaders like Roger Dickinson from the UTASA Trust have, since 1998, quietly fought this battle. A key to their philosophy is the trust between communities and themselves as they forge ahead to award bursaries to 2nd or 3rd-year students to ensure that tertiary education remains within the grasp of students on the quest to further their education.

UTASA have embarked on a ‘R100 for 1000 Campaign’ to obtain 1000 monthly debit orders of R100 each.

These funds are allocated to the relevant tertiary education to pay fees for students who have been vetted from schools, churches, mosques and community groups.

They are fully registered and have 18 years’ experience in distributing bursaries directly to tertiary institutions.

At the moment, 10 bursaries are awarded to students at a cost of R10,000 per student, which, in light of recent events, falls far short of the mark.

Roger Dickinson, UTASA Trust treasurer.

According to Dickinson: “The idea is to get churches from all denominations within communities to contribute to the fund, select recipients from their community through the UTASA Trust and contribute to their education.”

Critical issues raised, ranged from the perceived exclusion of coloured students from other funding bodies to lack of access to information around bursaries within these communities.

The consensus is that many communities have similar initiatives while many South Africans feel uncomfortable at the mention of similar trusts established within coloured communities.

As the debate around fees rages on, the UTASA Trust model is one worth exploring to ensure that the next generation of students measures up in terms of accessing tertiary education.

Three beneficiaries, Sean-Michael Bhikha, Sharri Cannell and Janine Aitken, can be heard in the audio below describing how the UTASA Trust has been instrumental in the fight against the astronomical cost of tertiary education.

Click to play audio:




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