Mzwandile Masina. Picture: AP

Johannesburg - A staggering R100 million has again been pledged by Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina as the city celebrated its best-performing matriculants from the 2019 academic year. 

An enthusiastic Masina, speaking on Wednesday at the Ekurhuleni Academic Excellence Awards in Alberton, stressed that the R100m bursary fund was his administration's way of investing in the city's education, despite this not being required of municipalities. 

"While education is not the primary function of local government or a municipal competency, we believe that the City has a moral obligation to play its part in aiding national education departments to realise their mandates -- a mandate to which we are all direct beneficiaries, " Masina enthused. 

"In advancing our skills development project, we increased our education allocation to the R100m Community Bursary Fund. This is a 10-fold increase from previous years when the bursary fund was at R10m. 

"The net effect of this investment has been an increase in the number of beneficiaries from just under 300 (in 2016) to nearly 2 000 (this year)," the proud mayor stressed. 

Rapper Kwesta on stage with the 2019 best performing matric pupils from Ekurhuleni. Video: Nokuthula Mbatha

Many of the beneficiaries of the fund were present at the awards, including Katlehong-born Lerato Tsuping, 22, who is now a qualified architect. 

Others present was Dr Lisa Nunes, a medical doctor, and Kamogelo Motsoagae, who is a qualified physiotherapist. 

Architect Lerato spoke passionately about the bursary programme, saying that, as someone who studied commerce at a Katlehong high school that didn't offer major arts subjects, she never lost sight of her ultimate goal. 

"When I joined the bursary, I wasn't an excellence learner, but I told myself that I want to be an architect. 

"In our township neighbourhoods, there are so many bad influences. So, as graduates, we must go back and teach the youth about the opportunities available out there," the young woman said. 

Ulrika Amor Smith from Hoerskool Jeugland in Kempton Park was honoured as the city's best performing matriculant, while Lethabo Mokholo from Unity Secondary School in Daveyton received top honours as the best learner from a priority school. 

Priority schools are those in townships, which Ekurhuleni targets for social investment. Fifteen matriculants from the city's priority schools received full scholarships from Ekurhuleni to pursue their studies further. 

"Always remember that you're not going to higher education for yourselves, but for your families and communities," mayor Masina said, urging the bursary recipients to give back once they had graduated. 

@khayakoko88 

The Star