In a statement, Barclays Africa Group Ltd/ABSA expressed its concern about the crisis at universities across the country during the past few months. With students protesting for free education, the 2016 academic year is in danger of being lost at some universities.
“We empathize with the plight of students whose parents are not able to fund their university education,” the statement reads. “While the government annually allocates billions of rand to provide access to higher education, it is clear that more needs to be done.”
The Group recognises the importance of education and skills training to socioeconomic development throughout Africa. One of the three piloars of the Group’s Shared Growth strategy is education and skills development. As part of this strategy, which was launched earlier this year, R1.4 billion has been committed to education and skills training across Africa over the next three years.
As part of this commitment, R49 million has been invested for 2016, mostly in historically black universities in South Africa. R23 million is for tuition fees for what is termed the “missing middle” reaching approximately 550 students, including 114 scholarships awarded to children of Barclays Africa staff. These are students who either have a shortfall on their National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding or whose parents can only afford a portion of their student fees. R26 million has been invested in university research and capacity building.
In light of the current university protests, the Group has decided to contribute an addtional R57 million towards the settlement of the 2016 student debt for approximately 1450 students in seven universities across South Africa. This is at an average of R40 000 per student. This brings the total contribution to student tuition for this year to R80 million and R106 million in total assistance to universities.
From next year the Group’s contribution will be increased to an average R70 000 per student, providing assistance to 3000 students across its markets in Africa, amounting to a R210 million investment.
“We know that our contribution is not enough to resolve the problem for every student but as a large corporate citizen we recognize the special responsibility we have to increase our support,” the Group statement says.
“We call upon students and universities to do everything they can to save the current academic year. Should this year be lost, it will be very difficult to accommodate a new intake next, further compounding the problem of access to higher education.
“Education is the foundation of social and economic development. The inequalities of our society place a responsibility upon all of us to find an equitable funding formula where priority is given to deserving students who do not have the means to pay some or all of their tuition fees.
“We are also mindful that the challenges in education are broad and not limited to financial barriers to entry into higher education. The basic education system is critical to the success of the post-school education. We recommit ourselves to continuing to work together with governments and other stakeholders to secure quality education to Africa’s young people to support economic development,” the statement concludes.