Funding missing middle students is essential for long-term economic growth

Morné du Toit

Morné du Toit

Published Mar 26, 2024


Morné du Toit

Investment into funding missing middle students who want to pursue university degrees in Occupations in High Demand (OHD) is a key step towards economic growth in South Africa.

We need the private sector to grow its investment into our country’s future by funding missing middle students who are eligible to pursue university degrees to turn the tide towards growth and prosperity in years to come.

Economic stagnation and high unemployment rates are cause for serious concern as South Africa seems to be struggling to shake off sluggish economic performance. Across the board, South Africans are feeling the pressure of a strained economy.

Despite worrying indicators pointing to how bad things have become in our country, South Africa still has the potential to develop a thriving, and inclusive economy. However, if we don’t take serious steps to ensure that we invest in skills development among young people by ensuring that those who are eligible to pursue university degrees are allowed to do so, we will be thwarting the development of our country’s economy in the long term.

Shifting focus towards developing a skills-based economy is crucial if we want to see South Africa set up for long-term, stable economic growth. Particularly in light of the fourth industrial revolution. Investing in skills development, especially those in high demand will make our economy more competitive and greatly increase the level of employability of young people.

The Ikusasa Student Financial Aid Programme Foundation NPC (ISFAP) was founded in the wake of the #FeesMustFall movement, as an outcome of the Ministerial Task Team that was set up to bring about free education under the Zuma administration.

While we are still a far way from free access to higher education for all, there has been progress in funding missing middle students who qualify to pursue degrees in OHD fields. ISFAP has funded 2 933 missing middle students so far, with 1 254 having graduated.

While we are proud of this achievement, the fact that we still have so many young people who qualify to pursue tertiary education in our country but who cannot do so because of a lack of financial resources is cause for serious concern and we should make every effort to widen access to funding. With greater intersectoral collaboration and support, it is possible.

If we want to see a future where ours is a well-balanced and inclusive economy that benefits the people of our country, then we will have to prioritise funding, in the form of bursaries as well as loans, to most if not all of those students who are eligible to enrol at a university. Since growing South Africa’s skills base is critical to the growth and development of South Africa’s economy, both the government and the private sector must continue to work together to fund students and help address issues of sustainable employment and decent work in the country post-qualification.

Morné du Toit is the CEO of Ikusasa Student Financial Aid Programme NPC.

The Star