The matriculants of 2022 – who achieved a pass rate of 80.1% – will be entering tertiary institutions this year, looking to gain knowledge and skills, and a foothold in South Africa’s rapidly evolving job market.
School-leavers looking to proceed to colleges and universities face the challenges and barriers of a highly unequal society, including ongoing load shedding, crime, and GBV, as well as escalating living, transport, and education costs.
“Though tuition fees have risen by about 5%, (to around R65 000 for a typical first year), a range of opportunities for support exists for prospective students in 2023,” explains Cara Jean-Petersen, CEO of Feenix, a public benefit student crowdfunding and bursary management organisation premised on the overarching principle that access to education should not be dependent on an individual’s wealth.
Feenix is a Non-Profit Organisation with an intuitive online platform that connects students with both corporate and individual donors and mentors, simplifying the arduous process of seeking and applying for funding.
The young, diverse, passionate team’s vision is to empower as many youths as possible with the entrepreneurial skillset and leadership qualities needed to succeed in business as well as in life – and to collectively drive massive economic growth.
Having launched in response to the #FeesMustFall movement that shook SA campuses in 2015 and 2016, Feenix’s work has highlighted the high cost of tertiary education, and the toll that financial stress takes on student success rates in SA.
“Our goal is to establish inclusive tertiary education in SA, leaving no student behind,” Petersen says.
Feenix has to date raised over R160 million and provided bursary management services to over 3 000 students. Last year the organisation raised over R48 million, covering 546 students’ fees at institutions across the country.
Feenix aims to grow its impact to reach many more students over the next five years.
Acknowledging that workplace readiness is a complex holistic matter, the Feenix approach offers students more than just financial support and bursary management.
To nurture both education and career success, Feenix track their students’ progress using identified Thrive drivers: Grit, Emotional Support, Financial Stability, and Academic progress. “We also provide fundraising tools, various personal and professional development opportunities, as well as access to our comprehensive student financial literacy platform, Blackbullion South Africa,” she elaborates.
Loyal to Feenix’s vision and ethos, previous beneficiaries who have gone on to create successful careers are now benefactors themselves, “giving back year after year, even throughout the pandemic, not only in terms of funding, but contributing their time, energy, and knowledge as well.”
Petersen, who was similarly supported in her own corporate journey by family, community, and society, says that paying it forward is a core element of the Feenix philosophy.
“We see the immense potential of today’s youth to close the critical skills gaps and bring about a prosperous, thriving economic future. We want to equip them to participate in the economy and contribute to a skilled workforce,” she says.
These skills shortages (especially prevalent within the STEM fields, but being felt by industries across the board) have been attributed to emigration, as well as the high price of education in SA.
Corporate contributions of skills development funding towards tertiary education for SA’s students is a high-impact, direct intervention to ensure companies’ future resilience, as well as a sure-fire solution to including as many young people into the formal economy as we can. “Corporate donations also help companies reach BBBEE goals, she adds.
“In addition to our call to students seeking funding, we’d like to reach out to individuals as well as corporates – including our thriving SME sector – and invite them to invest in the future of South Africa’s workforce.”
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