Wits has produced the most actuarial graduates from previously disadvantaged homes.
The latest report by the South African Actuaries Development Programme (SAADP) revealed that of all the bursaries given out at three universities, Wits had the most graduates. Wits has not only produced the most actuarial science graduates, but also has the most qualified actuaries.[pullquote]“Often actuary students do not have the strongest social lives. We facilitate social breaks where the students can meet and share their experiences and problems. Balance is important,”[/pullquote]
Nokwanda Mkhize, director of the SAADP programme, told Wits Vuvuzela that in 2002, before the programme started, there was only one black qualified actuary in South Africa. She said there were three coloured and 14 Indian actuaries of the qualified actuaries in South Africa at that time.
These figures were what drove the development of the programme.
Cyril Ramaphosa, the first chairman of the SAADP board at its inception in 2003, was instrumental in commissioning the programme.
“Ramaphosa called the strategy of the programme the ‘shotgun approach’. This was because Ramaphosa realised that it would take around 20 years to fix the science and maths issue in schools.
“At that time he knew that there were students excelling in those subjects and they should be identified and be given extensive support at the tertiary level.”
The SAADP strives to increase the number of black actuaries in South Africa. The programme identifies crucial talent and supports students from selection until qualification.
“The programme focuses on assisting students to unlearn the bad exam and test skills that often invovle cramming,” Mkhize said. Mkhize said that students are under the guidance of a coordinator and mentor at each of the three univerisites that the programme is offered.
The other universities are the University of Cape Town and the University of Pretoria, which is the most recent university to join. Asked what key elements contribute to the programmes’s success, Mkhize said: “It is hands-on from the time a student is selected until graduation.
“Often actuary students do not have the strongest social lives. We facilitate social breaks where the students can meet and share their experiences and problems. Balance is important,” she said.
Mkhize added that Ramaphosa’s passion was no doubt a contributing factor to the programme’s success. “He really cared about the students. At times, when a student had problems, he would take money not from the programme but from his own pocket to really make a difference.”