Anonymous R10 mill for needy Wits students

Super Achievers: Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Adam Habib and Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga with the students of the Equality Scholarship      Photo: Mfuneko Toyana

Super achievers: Wits vice-Chancellor Professor Adam Habib (seated left), Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga (seated right) along with the Dean of Students Dr Pamela Dube, (standing left) with some of the students who received the university’s Equality Scholarship.  Photo: Mfuneko Toyana


Earlier today Wits University and the Ministry of Basic of Education (DBE) introduced six of the ten matriculants who were awarded the university’s freshly minted Equality Scholarship ahead of the academic year which commences next week.

The learners were chosen from quintiles 1 and 2 schools, classified as “no-fee schools and situated in the most disadvantaged communities in the country”.

Vice-Chancellor (VC) Professor Adam Habib and Minister Angie Motshekga sat side by side in front of the media and the student themselves in the plush Council Chambers in Senate House. They both spoke enthusiastically of the bright futures that these students represented.

“This is the basis of addressing inequality,” Habib enjoined, as he explained the reasoning behind the formation of the scholarship, which aims to bankroll, in its entirety, the tertiary education of talented learners from poor and marginalised communities.

[pullquote align=”right”]”An anonymous R10 million donation was central in getting the scholarship off the ground”[/pullquote]

Habib, however, was quick to emphasise that it was “academic excellence” that formed the basis on which these students were chosen. “We recognise circumstances but you have to recognise merit,” Habib said.

The scholarship will be renewed annually provided the students continue to maintain impressive results.

Minister Motshekga described the scholarships as a way to catalyse “social migration from marginalised communities into high levels of the economy”.

Each student was awarded close to R100 000 per annum, dependent on their academic performance.

Habib revealed that an anonymous R10 million donation was central in getting the scholarship off the ground.

Conceding that even R100 000 was only just enough to cover each students tuition, accommodation and a small number of “incidentals”, and not other costs such as supporting extended families back in the students underprivileged communities, the VC bemoaned the difficulty caused by the fact that the “our inflation of higher education runs ahead of normal inflation”.

He described this as a “big challenge” which in part would have to be addressed through social support structures such as grants.

“We can’t have their education compromised,” Habib stressed, pointing out that some students qualified for other bursaries which could be used to cover additional costs.

Even R100 000 is not enough

The story of one of the scholarship recipients, Thembinkosi Qwabe from Osizweni in Newcastle, KwaZulu Natal, partly illustrates how even a sum as generous R100 000 may not be enough.

Qwabe is one of five children, the first to go to university in his family after scoring 97 per cent in Physical Science and 96 per cent in Maths. He was raised by a single parent, his mother.

Going Up: Top achiever Thembinkosi Qwabe will study Chemical Engineering  after receiving an Equality Scholarship Photo: Mfuneko Toyana

Going up: Top achiever Thembinkosi Qwabe will study Chemical Engineering after receiving an Equality Scholarship       Photo: Mfuneko Toyana

He explained that she was on the verge of retiring from a job as a receptionist at an auto-repair store. His two elder brothers had finished matric but are unemployed. Qwabe’s two younger sisters are still in school.

He said he did not remember the exact moment he received the news of the scholarship, but he did recall that his family was very happy. His father, whom he had last seen in 2006, knew of his achievements but had not yet contacted Qwabe to congratulate him.

[pullquote align=”right”]“My only wish now is to pass and do well for my family.”[/pullquote]

Dressed immaculately in all red and still reeling, by his own confession, from the gravity of the moment and of being in this large city, Qwabe hinted that it was now up to him to be that “bridge” into a better life for his family.

“My only wish now is to pass and do well for my family,” he said.



Editorial: Bite the hand that doesn’t feed

So it looks like Limpopo might produce a whole generation of Malemas. Education is the key to success but these northern youngsters aren’t exactly experiencing the “better life for all”.

The textbook saga is just another example of the ANC’s failure to curb corruption and mismanagement. But are voters finally going to ask: “What about the kids … what about my kids?”

Voting for the ANC in 1994 was certainly no mistake. Voting for them ever since, out of loyalty, fear, hope or whatever other reason, might’ve been a bad idea. Unemployed youth are angry and from these hopeless masses rise the likes of Julius Malema. Whether he still stands for that crowd or just stands to profit from their desperation is debatable. But he represents where it all went wrong – trying to fix things that may not be broken and further breaking things that need fixing. Case in point: education.

In a radio interview this week president Zuma insisted that education is a top priority as it receives a hefty portion of the budget. But one can’t help question why things are so bad in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo if that were true. Perhaps the wrong aspects within education are being prioritised.

It seems the ANC-led government may be trying to fix the problem from the top down. BEE, possible lower university entrance requirements, alleged inflated matric results … why not make just a slightly better effort at improving primary and high school education? Delivery of textbooks is such a basic process, how could it possibly have gone this wrong? Why not pay teachers, arguably the most important members of our society, a better salary? If you are a teacher in the Eastern Cape you might appreciate being paid at all.

The ANC-led government is giving our children a slap in the face. Yet parents and young adults keep voting for the party. Is that not a slap in the face to everyone who is trying their hardest to get ahead? Minister Angie Motshekga’s defence of her actions, or lack thereof, is offensive to say the least.

The Ethics Institute of SA should be supported for saying this week that officials should take responsibility for this debacle. An emotional observer might go further and say that Minister Motshekga is a disgrace to women who lead and a disgrace to what the ANC once was.

But forget about her. Just think of all the opportunities school children in Limpopo and the Eastern Cape will miss out on. Malema is right about one thing: the gap between rich and poor is widening. But neither he nor the current government has the solution.

The money is there, we just need the corruption and mismanagement to stop. For our children’s sake.