Cedric Mboyisa and Kendra Stoffberg

Above: Star student Awande Gcabashe thanks the sugar industry for its financial support.

A total of 41 students who have excelled academically are well on their way to a better tomorrow, all thanks to the Sugar Industry Trust Fund for Education (SITFE).

Despite numerous challenges and difficulties they faced, these students have managed to be top academic performers. The recipients are mostly from previously disadvantaged backgrounds who live in rural villages and townships of sugarcane growing provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. Some are sons and daughters of sugarcane farmworkers and domestic workers. Others are orphans from child-headed homes or have unemployed parents who survive on state grants.

“SITFE annually awards 41 new bursaries to tertiary students. For the 2017/2018 season, this relates to approximately R3.2 million. The SITFE bursary, valued at approximately R150 000, covers 100% of tuition fees, books, meals, and accommodation for the entire duration of the student’s undergraduate course. All of these students originate from KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga,” said Roy Sharma, one of the SITFE Trustees. He was speaking at a media briefing to announce the 41 students who had been selected to be SITFE beneficiaries.

Above: SITFE Trustees, South African Sugar Association staff and some of the 41 students who have been awarded bursaries this year. 

He added: “SITFE is committed to improving the quality of education within the rural sugarcane growing areas of KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. For nearly 52 years, SITFE has dedicated funds and resources to a variety of initiatives including school building projects, early childhood development programmes, training academies for the disabled, teacher training programmes and Maths, Science and English interventions. Since its inception in1965, SITFE has awarded more than 10 000 bursaries to tertiary students from the sugarcane growing provinces.”

One of these shining stars is Awande Gcabashe who amassed five distinctions. He is going to study towards a degree in geological science at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Despite his mom being unemployed and surviving on state grant, Gcabashe was able to ace his exams. “I am very happy that I got this bursary. Without it, I would have not been able to study further. I am grateful to the sugar industry for this opportunity,” he said.