Transforming the country and improving the lives of all South Africans is not only the responsibility of government. All South Africans should play their part in taking the country forward by lending a hand wherever possible.
A group of students at the University of Witwatersrand (Wits University) has done exactly this, taking the plight of their peers into their hands by coming up with a creative way to ensure that they too have access to education.
Every year thousands of hopeful young people line-up at the gates of institutions of higher learning with the hope of studying further. Many times their dreams are dashed because they are unable to get funding.
In February this year, the Student Representative Council (SRC) of Wits University started the One Million a Month Campaign to raise funds for the over 2 000 students who faced the possibility of being excluded from the 2015 academic year because they did not have enough money to pay for their tuition.
So far the SRC has surpassed its target thanks to partnerships with civil society, non-governmental organisations, individuals, academics and businesses.
The campaign is open to all South Africans and people can donate any amount starting from R10. Just 10 days into the campaign, the SRC raised R780 000.
Wits University SRC president, Mcebo Dlamini, says the response has been overwhelming since they made the call for donations from South Africans.
“We are slightly over R2 million and donations are still coming because we didn’t close the campaign. Our initial plan was to raise a million and so far we’ve made double that amount within a month,” said Dlamini.
Ordinary members of the public and prominent South Africans have made (and are making) contributions to the campaign.
The list of contributors includes, Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke and nine of his friends who each donated R50 000, Wits University Vice-Chancellor and Principal Adam Habib also donated from his pocket, the Oppenheimer family donated R120 000, five deans of various schools at the university donated R5 000 each. The biggest donation came from Basetsana Thokoane who donated R553 000.
The Free State Provincial Government has also come on board by offering to sponsor bursaries to those affected students who are from the province.
Dlamini said the support from all sectors of society showed that South Africans valued education and if people worked together, the country could deal with the challenges it faces.
“The response is tremendous. It shows that South Africans value education and they can lend a helping hand. It has also shown us that working together we can achieve more.”
The money raised will be used to cover the registration fees of the students who faced expulsion from the university.
He added that the SRC is planning to invest some of the money so that the return on investment can be used to assist students from poor families at the beginning of next year.
**At the time of going to print, the campaign had raised more than R2 million.