10 July 2024 | Story Jacky Tshokwe | Photo Supplied
SMU Workshop 2024
From left to right: Professors Letlhokwa Mpedi (Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Johannesburg), Ndanduleni Bernard Nthambeleni (Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Venda), Peter Mbati (Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University), and Francis Petersen (Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of the Free State) convened at the Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University to discuss strategies for addressing financial gaps in South African universities.

In a significant move towards addressing the financial struggles of South Africa’s ‘missing middle’ students, the Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (SMU) recently hosted an essential workshop. The ‘missing middle’ students fall into a financial gap, being ineligible for fully funded scholarships yet unable to afford their education independently. The workshop, presented in partnership with Prof Francis Petersen, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of the Free State (UFS) and Chair of Universities South Africa (USAf), joined prominent academics, industry leaders, and key stakeholders to explore sustainable funding models and foster collaborative efforts.

The workshop opened with a heartfelt customer testimonial video by Kagisho Phofolo, highlighting the real-life challenges faced by students. The narrative set the tone for the day, emphasising the urgency of finding viable funding solutions. Fundi, a significant player in education funding, provided the initial framework for the discussions.

Prof Peter Mbati, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the SMU, delivered the opening remarks, welcoming attendees and underscoring the critical importance of addressing the financial challenges faced by South African students. His address set the stage for a day dedicated to collaborative problem-solving.

Prof Petersen then delivered an insightful keynote address focusing on the current funding challenges within the technical and vocational education and training (TVET) and higher education sectors. His address highlighted systemic issues and set the foundation for the day’s in-depth discussions.

Following the keynote address, a panel of discussions anchored by Dumisani Sibanda from Fundi took place. The panel included Prof Ndanduleni Bernard Nthambeleni (Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Venda), Prof Letlhokwa Mpedi (Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Johannesburg), Karabo Lloyd Diago (ISG (spell out acronym) Chair), and Dr Jeffrey Mabelebele (SMU Registrar). Each provided diverse perspectives on the funding challenges and potential solutions, enriching the dialogue with their unique insights.

Prof Mpedi delivered a compelling address on the role of public-private partnerships in resolving the funding issues for the missing middle. His presentation emphasised the importance of collaboration between public institutions and private entities to develop sustainable funding models.

Cedric Nkuna and Werner Maree from Mettle presented innovative investment funding models, engaging the audience with potential strategies to secure funding for students. Their proposals sparked significant interest and discussion among attendees.

Dumisani Sibanda (Executive Head: Strategic Projects and Analytics, Fundi) provided strategic insights into the funding models discussed, offering a comprehensive overview of the potential paths forward. An interactive Q&A session with Prof Nthambeleni allowed attendees to delve deeper into the topics, fostering a rich exchange of ideas.

The workshop concluded with closing remarks from Prof Mbati, who summarised the key points and outlined the next steps in the collaborative effort to support South Africa’s missing middle. He emphasised the need for continued dialogue and action to address the financial barriers facing students.

The workshop at the SMU was a significant step towards finding sustainable funding solutions for South Africa’s missing middle students. The diverse perspectives and collaborative discussions provided valuable insights and actionable strategies to bridge the financial gap. The SMU, with the support of USAf and other key stakeholders, is committed to continuing this important conversation and working towards practical solutions to support students on their educational journeys.

#UFS #Vision130 #SMUWorkshop #HigherEducation #MissingMiddle #StudentFunding #Collaboration #Innovation #FutureLeaders 

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