File picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters
Pretoria – With the cost of delivering university education close to R50 billion a year, a donation by Absa to universities in Pretoria and Limpopo came as a welcome respite.

Absa announced a contribution of R63.1 million in scholarship funding to support financially needy students in undergraduate degrees on the basis of their academic excellence.

The money will be allocated to students undertaking a three-year undergraduate degree in commerce, humanities, engineering or science and technology studies.

Absa managing executive for Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Pretoria, Oscar Siziba, said the CEO Scholarship Programme expanded on the bank's ReadytoWork skills development programme.

The programme has been designed to make an impact on youth unemployment in the country by improving the employability of graduates.

“As part of our commitment to education and skills development, we are proud to be creating opportunities for undergraduate students to access higher education."

“We have taken this a step further by assisting them to be able to apply their knowledge with real-world impact from our ReadytoWork curriculum to prepare them to net a job after graduation,” he said.

Unisa, University of Pretoria and the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) are among the beneficiaries of the donation.

Unisa was awarded R6.5m and UP R14m for the 2016/17 period, while TUT was granted R11.4m to be spent over the next three years.

Additional bursaries for the next three years to cater for UP’s Banking Law and Actuarial Science studies, as well as for the upkeep of the business clinic in Mamelodi for R21.2m, was signed with Absa.

During the handover ceremony of R7m to TUT, chancellor and patron for the university’s bursary and scholarship fund, Health MEC Dr Gwen Ramokgopa, applauded Absa for heeding the national call for further financial support to be channelled to universities for numerous financially needy students.

“Your contribution towards the education sector will help universities such as TUT to improve the conditions under which the children can learn. Without an empowered youth, the future is not as bright," she said.

“Funding education is not an expense or donation but an investment and gesture to empowering young people and fostering nation-building as a whole."

"Through sustained investments of this nature, there is a potential for relationships of mutual benefit to grow to higher levels,” said Ramokgopa.

Principal and vice-chancellor for UP, Professor Cheryl de la Rey, said: “We are grateful for Absa’s contribution to expanding access to higher education for deserving students."

“In our present resource-constrained environment, one cannot overstate the pivotal role played by partnerships with, and financial support by, the private sector and the corporate world in maintaining the sustainability of public higher education institutions like the University of Pretoria.”

In addition, the University of Venda and Limpopo’s Scholarship Funding were given R5m each.

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