Lend a helping hand to struggling students and get them to graduate. Graphic supplied.
Lend a helping hand to struggling students and get them to graduate. Graphic supplied.

Maties annual fund to help struggling student complete their degree

By IOL Reporter Time of article published Oct 7, 2021

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Stellenbosch University's Development and Alumni Relations Division (DAR) has launched its Annual fund, Bridge the Gap which is set up for assisting those in the community who are in need.

The fund challenges university alumni, the student community, staff, donors and friends to help remove obstacles further exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic which are hindering Maties from having a meaningful student experience and obtaining that sought-after degree.

This fund is distributed to a number of projects under the umbrella of Bridge the Gap.

DAR's senior director Karen Bruns said: "Our students are at the heart of all that we do, so each year we work with our university community to identify priority initiatives to help them succeed. The aim of this fund is to close the gap between talent and financial need.

"After a needs assessment based on available data, we have identified eight initiatives to support our students.”

Those who are interested in lending a helping hand by digging deeper in their pockets, can go directly to the Annual Fund, or they can directly fund the projects which they are most passionate about.

"Donations to Bridge the Gap will directly fund students' needs and make an immediate and tangible difference in their lives by fuelling residential university life, our student wellness resources and outreach programmes," Bruns said.

Maties student leader, Mlungisi Khumalo said the Annual Fund was a wonderful opportunity to unite efforts and do away with all the barriers to student success.

"An academic journey is one of the most difficult ones if you don’t have support. It is exactly through united efforts that many students are able to regain hope and fulfil their academic and future aspirations. I, therefore, call on everyone, to please take a moment and reflect on why it is important to help someone else. Think about the ripple effect that is created through one educated individual — the lives that are changed and the hope that is restored because of your decision to help," Khumalo said.

The Bridge the Gap priority initiatives are:

#Move4Food – This student-led campaign is a way of providing immediate relief to curb student hunger on SU campuses.

Tygerberg Pantry Project – Non-perishable food items and toiletries are placed in communal pantries in residences on the Tygerberg campus, so students in need can access these basic necessities.

#Action4Inclusion – Seeks to ensure academic inclusion and the registration of all students by clearing their outstanding debt.

#GradMe – Helps graduates with outstanding debt to enter the South African economy upon graduation, debt-free and with confidence.

#Zim4Zim – Aims to clear the debt of qualifying final year and postgraduate Maties from Zimbabwe, who have no other sources of funding by the time they graduate. By offering support to these talented students, SU believes it can contribute to knowledge production on our continent.

End Period Poverty – The South African government, on the evidence presented by several civil and community organisations, including the Stellenbosch University Law Clinic, moved to make sanitary hygiene products more accessible by removing the 15% value added tax on such products in 2019, yet there are still many students who simply cannot afford them.

#MatiesHaveDrive – Another student-led initiative spearheaded by the SU Student Representative Council, works on providing part-funded driver training for students who require a driving licence in order to get a job.

Caught in the Middle – Raises funds for students in the "missing middle" category. This group – with family incomes of between R350 000 and R600 000 a year – comprises some of SU’s most talented and academically gifted students, but they’re at risk of dropping out due to financial difficulties.

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