Closing the gap

ITHUBA’s bursary programme is empowering SA’s youth by promoting education and transformation

ITHUBA, SA’s National Lottery operator, is doing its part to uplift students and close the unemployment gap by providing full bursaries and a holistic educational journey.

In SA, unemployment stats have improved marginally this year. According to Business Tech, Stats SA’s Quarterly Labour Force survey indicates a slight drop in the country’s unemployment rate. The official unemployment rate decreased by 0.2 % but remains high at 32.7%.

The issue of employment is an even greater stumbling block for students who want to obtain tertiary education to make them more employable but are unable to do so due to financial constraints. Many remarkable young students are achieving high results but find themselves in a conundrum when even the registration fee is too big an ask.

Bursaries are lifelines to students in these cases, making it possible for them to pursue a greater level of education, ensuring they will have employment opportunities that will truly be life-changing. Gifts such as these are important not only to the students but also to their families, as the ripple effect of education is widespread, acting as the conduit for positive forward movement and opportunity.

The ITHUBA bursary programme, sponsored by ITHUBA Holdings, is one such initiative. The programme ensures that the recipient’s basic needs are met, and it offers full financial and emotional support.

Because of the programme’s holistic approach ensuring the beneficiaries’ overall well-being and stability, students have the best chance to complete their studies and build up confidence successfully. Bursary programmes in this vein are rare finds.

The National Lottery operator’s bursaries are creating hope for a better tomorrow

ITHUBA has been the National Lottery operator since 2015 and, in the eight years since, has consistently set a high bar for excellence in all that it does. Through its continual pursuit of excellence in gaming, ITHUBA has been recognised as the top operator in Africa and has also achieved many awards.

The heart of ITHUBA embraces the value it holds as a corporate entity that gives back and uplifts local communities, changing the lives of ordinary citizens. As a tenacious company that thrives to improve the lives of ordinary South Africans, education is paramount to its efforts in doing so. The ITHUBA Scholarship programme was started with the vision to help previously disadvantaged youths pursue their tertiary education.

Started initially under ITHUBA’s parent company, Zamani Holdings, ITHUBA took ownership of this programme, and has been successfully running it as an annual corporate social outreach programme. ITHUBA runs many other life-enriching initiatives, including housing programmes. However, its bursary programme focuses specifically on empowering the heroes of tomorrow, which is why it remains so important to ITHUBA CEO Charmaine Mabuza.

Mabuza says she recognises the critical role that bursary programmes play in shaping the future of students, which is why its offering is holistic and includes full tuition, study tools, accommodation, meal and personal care allowances, mentorship and counselling programmes to its beneficiaries. ‘Together, we can create a brighter future for students by ensuring that bursary programmes thrive and continue to open doors to countless opportunities,’ says Mabuza.

The programme allows candidates wishing to study IT, marketing, accounting or engineering to apply, and has seen many successful past students go on to achieve their degrees and pursue their dream jobs.

Among the students who are studying this year is Sphamandla Mbuyazi (19), who is currently in the second year of his computer science degree at Wits University and intends becoming a data scientist. Mbuyazi wants to get a stable job that will allow him to help his father care for their family of 10. He says he is inspired to do well and is grateful for the full financial backing of ITHUBA, as his first year of studies was through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.

ITHUBA bursaries are holistic in that they provide counselling services as well as financial support

‘I left NSFAS because some of the things required to study computer science, they couldn’t afford,’ says Mbuyazi. ‘So I applied for an ITHUBA bursary, and now all my requirements are fully covered.’

Olebogene Balaseng (20) is also studying computer science, and he feels this bursary is his opportunity to improve his family situation and honour his deceased mother, who single-handedly raised him and his three brothers. Balaseng says he is learning a lot about self-discipline in his pursuit to become a top software developer and that the counselling interventions ITHUBA provides are invaluable.

‘Apart from financial assistance, ITHUBA provides us with counsellors who you can call anytime, and they offer us advice if necessary. When faced with mental health issues like depression and anxiety they are there to assist you.’

Lundi Ramokonyane (23) is one of the older applicants as, although he was a high achiever at high school level, his dire financial situation left him unable even to pay the registration fee for his mining engineering degree. In the years since he left school, he has been tutoring younger students, and his high school maths teacher alerted him to the opportunity the ITHUBA bursary programme could provide. After a successful application, he says he is thoroughly enjoying the first year of his degree and that he vows to make ITHUBA proud that they took a chance on him, adding that he will ensure he finishes his course on time.

Thulisile Nature (21) has also been tutoring since matriculating in 2019, and is resolute that she will not only get her degree in computer science but will go on to earn her master’s degree and hopes to build her own business in time. Nature outlined the additional benefits she receives get from the ITHUBA bursary programme, saying that she is grateful for the opportunity and that being able to focus on her studies, without any hindrance, is the true gift.

It remains clear that ubuntu and the spirit of the interconnection that grows successful communities is thriving through this bursary programme. ITHUBA’s commitment to continued excellence shines through its tertiary education endeavour, and its dedication to the current students is tangible. ITHUBA remains the operator that goes above and beyond the call of duty.

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