A project which aims to find sustainable and tangible solutions to South Africa’s “missing middle” students’ crisis has been launched by the Chemical Industries Education & Training Authority (CHIETA), in light of Youth Day.
The country is currently faced with a considerable number of students that fall into funding gap where they cannot afford to pay for university studies, but also do not qualify for free education from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
To this end, CHIETA’s Lesedi Youth Fund aims to bridge this gap by funding over R32 million towards paying off historical debt and allocating funds towards the completion of these “missing middle” students’ studies.
“Lesedi means light. With our Lesedi Youth Fund we are aiming to brighten the future of these missing middle students by enabling them to complete their studies, whilst also facilitating the provision of skills growth in the chemical industries sector. This fund will support about 692 students who are in their final year of study or have completed their studies and need financial assistance to pay off historical fees and get their certificates,” comments CHIETA CEO Yershen Pillay.
The Lesedi Youth Fund project is being rolled out over an 18-month period and there are plans to open the application window twice a year to also accommodate students who study semester modules. These students’ qualifications must fall within the chemicals industry, and they must be recognised by a formal South African Higher institution or University of Technology.
The fund stipulates that institutions will select students based on contractual obligations between CHIETA and the institution in question. The money will then be disbursed directly to the institutions with appropriate reporting from the institution and required student records.
The Lesedi Youth Fund is in direct response to the Economic Recovery and Reconstruction Plan (ERRP). “Skills development forms an essential part of the ERRP and the country’s efforts at growing our local talent. Through addressing the crisis of historical student debt together with increasing work place experience and work-based learning, CHIETA will be able to respond to the needs of youth in a more holistic and integrated way, especially youth planning on seizing opportunities in the chemical industries”, says Pillay.
Another project that CHIETA is involved with, under the ERRP, is Work Integrated Learning (WIL). Through this project 140 learners will benefit from internships in this financial year. The value of this investment is over R7-million.