Studying and Bursaries

Do you want to study? Have you decided what you want to study and how to afford it? Are you confused about the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS)? Do you know where to look for other bursaries?

Tertiary education can be a minefield, and very expensive. So it’s a good idea to investigate what you might be interested in and to find out if this is an area of study that leads to a career in the 21st century.

Busi has some important decisions to make. She is studying hard for matric as she knows that good results will help her to gain access to tertiary education. But how does she go to college without incurring debt, as well as ensuring that she can actually find work afterwards? Samke dropped out because she wasn’t working hard enough but also because there were financial difficulties in paying her fees. So what should Busi do?

Busi first has to decide on what careers are worth studying in South Africa at this time. She has heard about the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which describes how new technology developments – such as artificial intelligence and robotics, advances in biotechnology, the internet of things, etc – are transforming our lives and work. She knows that some of the more traditional careers are going to fall away and that she has to think carefully about what to study and where to study it.

Formal tertiary education at public universities and at TVET colleges is funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). NSFAS offers (since 2018) students bursaries if your household has a combined annual income of less than R350,000 per year.

The conditions are that:
• You apply and meet the entrance requirements of a course at a university/college.
• Once you are studying, you meet the academic requirements set by the institution to continue studying. You need to pass at least 50% of all your modules for that year or semester in order to continue receiving funding.

NSFAS does not:
• Fund short courses or part time courses.
• Fund studying at any private institutions.

Of course, admissions at tertiary institutions are limited so the competition to be selected is a really good reason to study hard for matric!

Other bursaries:
• Are funded by companies and organisations.
• They are helpful because your fees are paid and you also may have a job to go to after you have finished working. This is really helpful because starting a career post-studying can be very difficult if you haven’t studied for something that the job market is looking for. So having guaranteed employment after graduation is a great advantage.
• These bursaries are usually awarded to students who have done particularly well in matric.
• Most of these companies or organisations are linked to particular areas of work in which they operate. For example, if you want to study to become a manager in a chain of stores some big companies offer bursaries in retail business management. (As well as bursaries for accounting, logistics and information technology).
• If your family has an income of more than R350,000 per year then it may also be a really useful way to find funding for your studies.
• Use the internet to search for these bursaries. Enter your career choice, such as ‘Coding Programmer’ together with ‘Bursaries in South Africa’ and the choices will pop up.
• Search for Learnership opportunities on the internet. Your studies are paid for by the company which provides you with the Learnership and you are paid a small stipend while you’re studying! Even if you’re employed full-time, some companies offer you opportunities to study while you work.

The other issue that Busi needs to resolve is what would be a good area in which to study. She enjoys numbers and, like her friend, has thought about a career in accounting. This would require years of study at a university and she’s been thinking about the changes that are happening in the world of work. Will there be long-term jobs available as artificial intelligence (AI) takes over much of the normal number crunching that is involved in bookkeeping and accounting? She knows that she needs to be adaptable for the changes that face young people in the 21st Century so she is looking for something a little different to the norm. She needs to make sure that she gets a good job after graduating. Her thoughts have led her to look at studying as a Data Scientist.

A Data Scientist is someone who examines all the information that comes from collecting data (and there are mountains of it!) and knows how to interpret it. Companies are desperate to employ people who are able to trawl through all the data, extract valuable information and make sense of it. This is a very important 21st Century skill. Organisations such as Data Science Academy offer a one-year Data Science Programme that is fully funded, if you qualify.

The Department of Higher Education and Training published a list of jobs in high demand in South Africa in 2018. See them listed in the Government Gazette here.

Some of the jobs listed as being in high demand – such as carpentry and plumbing – require TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) qualifications. These give you both theoretical knowledge and practical skills to take into the working world. So, a formal university education may not always be the best route to go.

There are also many jobs available in the IT field and there are great coding opportunities in South Africa. Look at the exciting opportunities available to young people in South Africa on: we think code and Code for Change.

Agriculture is also an interesting field to look at. There is a need for young black people, including women, to work in the specialised agricultural sector. Several skilled agricultural jobs are listed in the DHET’s list of jobs in high demand.

There are also many aptitude tests available on the internet that might help you decide on what career choice works well with your personality. But this can’t be your only consideration. You also need to be wise, and think about the costs of education and the financial benefits you will reap in a fulfilling career. Make sure what you study is something the market is looking for. It doesn’t help to study for years and then find you still can’t get a job! If you want to make a success of your financial future, then you need to look at these aspects:

• something you are interested in doing
• something the job market needs
• something for which you can get funding so that you don’t start your career in debt.

As Busi and her friends know, hard work pays off. By making sure that they get good matric results, they will have the opportunity to improve their financial futures by studying further. But they also need to study for a market that is looking for their skills, because jobs are scarce out there at the moment.