Former Wits SRC leaders launch fund to improve access to higher education
- Wits University
The South African Student Solidarity Foundation for Education (SASSFE) is a network for all universities’ alumni to support students in need.
The doors of learning and culture in South Africa are still not open to all. Access to tertiary education continues to depend not so much on students’ academic abilities, but on their class position. Even where poor students are admitted to universities and some of their fees paid, their experience at tertiary education institutions is often undignified and leads to low levels of success. Many often go hungry, or have problems securing the accommodation, text books and money needed to be academically successful.
“This cannot be allowed to continue in good conscience,” says Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, Chairperson of the South African Student Solidarity Foundation for Education (SASSFE) Board of Trustees, launched today.
The Forum of former Student Representative Council (SRC) and Black Student Society (BSS) Presidents at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) have today launched SASSFE which aims to mobilise significant financial support for the tertiary education sector in South Africa and perhaps redefine the way in which past, present and future generations of students in South Africa relate to each other.
One of the objectives of SASSFE will be to provide university alumni with a platform and opportunity to take on an active and voluntary role in supporting students in need. SASSFE aims to create a dependable and sustainable support platform for alumni, the private sector and any other members of society, to make small but regular donations to a SASSFE Fund which will make higher education accessible to all students, irrespective of class.
“The burden of ensuring that all poor but deserving students can have access to higher education cannot be borne by the students themselves and alone, but by society and in particular by those who have previously had access to higher education. This must, however, be done voluntarily and independently and the funds must be managed by those who give them in partnership with the universities. This is our nation building moment,” says Tiego Moseneke, a former Wits student leader and one of the founding members of SASSFE.
The initial Board of Trustees which will lead and provide oversight for all the activities of SASSFE comprise the following:
- Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, the Archbishop of Cape Town – Chairperson
- Retired Judge of the Constitutional Court, Richard Goldstone
- Judge of the Supreme Court of Appeals, Judge Azhar Cachalia
- Professor of Mathematics and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of South Africa, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng
The initial management board consists of the following former student leaders:
- Tiego Moseneke - Chairperson
- Linda Vilakazi
- Moss Mashishi
- Terry Tselane
- Firoz Cachalia
- Kenneth Creamer
- Themba Maseko
- Tebogo Thothela
“Many students, including those that receive NSFAS support and the so called ‘missing middle’, continue to suffer the indignity of hunger and homelessness on our campuses. We must tackle this problem bottom-up until all deserving students can study in dignity,” says Linda Vilakazi, a co-founder of SASSFE and, in 1992/3, Wits’ first black female SRC president.
SASSFE calls on all who have benefitted from higher education to be active participants and promoters of the work of SASSFE. The SASSFE website at www.sassfe.org.za and call centre awaits not only donations but also offers from individuals to actively participate in the various committees and work streams of SASSFE.
Firoz Cachalia, once a student leader at Wits and co-founder of SASSFE asks, “Where are all the leaders of the various societies on campus over the years, all the leaders of the house committees, all former students of conscience, all activists, all students and all others who care about a future where higher education is accessible to all?”
Archbishop Makgoba continues: “SASSFE is a movement that aims to build on the fundamental view that all students, regardless of their socio-economic standing, can achieve at the highest level when given access to resources and proper support.”
SASSFE, which plans to be a nationwide initiative, has set up its first Chapter at Wits. Wits University has provided the Wits Chapter of SASSFE with its administrative backbone. The way the structure works is that all funds collected by the Wits Chapter will be used to assist Wits students. It is envisaged, at least initially, that as SASSFE Chapters are established at other tertiary education institutions they will work to assist students at their own institutions.
Kenneth Creamer, one of the founding members of SASSFE says, “We are excited to have Wits on board as we pilot this initiative. We have worked very closely with past and current Wits student leaders, the Wits SRC, the Wits Alumni Relations Office, the Wits Development and Funding Office and the University administration to get the SASSFE initiative off the ground.”
SASSFE is already in discussions with other universities with the view to on-board them into the SASSFE movement. Themba Maseko, also a founding member of SASSFE and a Wits student leader in the 80s says, “The intent is to grow the movement to reach the total network of public universities in the country, in partnership with former student leaders in each university and the university administrations.”
Listening to the views, concerns and demands of the current generation of student leaders and learning from them (and perhaps sharing some of our own experiences) is at the core of the SASSFE philosophy.
Tebogo Thothela, Wits SRC President (2012/3) says, “We are partners with the current SRC leadership at Wits in this campaign and we will cultivate relationships with the current SRC leadership in all universities to join the SASSFE movement.”
How to donate and governance:
Moss Mashishi, a Wits sports leader in the 1980’s says: “We have built a world class website interface, a payment gateway and an active public relations and social media presence which will provide for easy and safe donations. This would not have been possible without the active support of our partners. These companies are true South African heroes.”
Companies who have partnered with SASSFE so far include Ogilvy & Mather, Webber Wentzel, SizweNtsalubaGobodo, Telkom, Brand Union, Encha Group, Matemeku Development Trust and Ornico. It is expected that the list of such partners will expand in future.
Donating is made as simple as possible - online donations are launched simply by clicking the “Donate Now” button on the SASSFE website at www.sassfe.org.za. Currently the payment gateway for the Wits Chapter is the only one that is up and running, but it is expected that payment gateways linked to other tertiary education institutions will be added in due course.
A core principle of SASSFE is to stay interactively in touch with donors and to actively involve them in the work of SASSFE.
Terry Tselane, a SASSFE co-founder and Wits BSS President (1988) says: “Every year, SASSFE plans to host a donors conference wherein it will table its audited accounts, assess its impact, cultivate a comradery amongst donors, deepen our shared commitment to ensuring that higher education is accessible to all and share ideas on how we can do our work better, together.”