It takes hard work, sweat, and tears to be a student these days. The tenacity of this group is tested every single day of their academic careers. A massive cash pay-out (made in March) will go a long way to celebrating these students and their drive to succeed.
“As a society, we all have a part to play in supporting students so that they can fulfil their potential – regardless of wealth. I am thrilled to be able to announce that we have recently paid out a massive R11,7m to students whose families struggled to afford their studies,” says Cara-Jean Petersen, CEO of non-profit organisation Feenix.
Feenix was birthed during the #FeesMustFall movement and is a way for students to reach out to communities for financial support. The internet and social media platforms have made it easier and faster for students seeking access to funding to gain access to communities that can support them.
This student pay-out, says Petersen, comes at a time when there is a massive need for financial support among students looking to complete their degrees and enter the working world.
It comes on the back of statistics released by Stats SA in February this year, which pointed to unemployment levels being persistently higher post-2016 while they also highlighted that the higher levels of unemployment mostly affected women and people with lower levels of education.
Crowdfunding is a way for students to raise funds for their university studies by connecting them to individuals and businesses who can make a financial contribution to their university fees. This form of fundraising has been a catalyst for meaningful change in the lives of thousands of students across the country.
“To live out our belief that access to education should not be dependent on wealth, we have helped raise more than R165m which has impacted the lives of 3729 tertiary students,” says Petersen. “We paid out R11 741 015 in March, impacting the lives of 384 students thanks to the generous donations of everyday people and local businesses.”
Funds raised through the platform are paid out at regular intervals during the year.
One student who has benefited from the Feenix platform is Rhodes University pharmacy student Mahlomola Marotola.
“As a final year student, my wish is to graduate debt free and your donation has reduced the amount of my outstanding fee that I owe the institution,” he writes in a message to those who donated towards his target of the R72 629 he needed.
“I appreciate the courage and the potential that you have seen in me. From this moment I have realized that working hard is one of the best rewards I can offer. Getting donations shows that someone believes in you and that someone is willing to give you an opportunity to make your future bright. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.”
Access to funding remains a massive barrier to future success that our students currently face in South Africa. Some estimates are that first-year tuition fees, which have ballooned to R65 000, might reach R107 600 by the year 2025, and even as high as R165 600 by 2030.
“It is very easy to be incredibly discouraged by these numbers. Young students want to pursue formal education to remain competitive within the current young professional pool, but the enormous financial expense has seen an increase in anxiety, stress, or worries affecting the mental health of students,” says Petersen.
This highlights the need for the public and for all members of society to support students who are doing their best to succeed, no matter the obstacles in their way.
“Donating to an organisation like ours not only ensures that the next generation of young professionals are educated and equipped for the future but instills a deeper sense of community and excitement to pay it forward knowing that someone chose them, invested in them, and believed in them,” she adds.
With the donations received, Feenix can provide the following student support:
• Funding: individuals and corporate businesses make donations directly to a student’s profile on Feenix.
• Financial literacy: Feenix’s financial literacy and education programme teaches students to be ‘money smart’.
• Personal and professional development: fundraising tools, work readiness, and personal branding webinars prepare students for their futures.
• Psychosocial support: Feenix alumni and current students become ambassadors and provide peer-to-peer support to other students.
Students seeking assistance can create a profile on the website, which they can use to raise funds for their studies. Corporates and individual funders can invest any amount over R100 to help the students settle their debt.