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Only 26% of graduates finish their three-year degrees. This is according to the recently released and audited Vital Stats Public Higher Education 2016 report, which finds that the number of students who drop out of higher education institutions has increased to staggering proportions.

Peter Metcalfe, Group Executive for Sales and Marketing at Novus Holdings, says that one way of assisting to resolve this statistic is with bursary programmes. Providing additional personal support together with a bursary can go a long way in addressing the poor drop-out rate at higher institutions.

“Support given to bursary recipients will help bridge the socio-economic gap that exists for many learners, ensuring that they adapt to academic life and complete their course of study,” says Metcalfe.

Earlier this year Naledi Pandor, Minister of Higher Education, emphasised that providing students who have poor and working-class backgrounds with bursaries plays a vital role in creating an empowered and productive society. In addition, according to a 2016 report by Statistics SA, close to 45% of higher education institution revenue came from bursaries or grants.

“Most South Africans cannot afford to pay for tertiary education. The Paarl Media Bursary Fund Trust, supported by Novus Holdings, makes a difference as it aims to create opportunities for learners who are hard-working and committed to working towards a brighter future,” explains Metcalfe.

Since its inception in 2008, the Trust has awarded more than 100 bursaries to the value of R10 million.  At the end of 2017 it awarded bursaries to the value of R525 000 to seven Western Cape-based matric learners to help finance their tertiary education in 2018. In addition to funding, the Trust provides support and guidance to all Paarl Media Bursary recipients.

For Dr Lambert Greeff, a 2015 recipient of the Paarl Media Bursary and now a qualified dentist at the South African National Defence Force in KwaZulu Natal, obtaining his BChD from the University of The Western Cape, came with many difficulties.

“During my first year of dentistry, I was balancing two jobs while trying to focus on my studies. Working late nights and all the sleep deprivation eventually took its toll and started affecting my studies – I was not performing the way I knew I could,” explains Greeff.

Like many other South Africans, Greeff found that financing his studies was one of the greatest obstacles he had to face in order to pursue his dream career. Fortunately, Greeff was awarded a bursary through the Paarl Media Bursary Fund Trust to complete his studies.

“Receiving the bursary had the greatest impact on my life. For the first time, I had a sense of financial security that allowed me to focus on what was important. My studies became my main focus and this allowed me to become the best practitioner that I could be.”

Now a qualified dentist, Greeff takes pride in the difference he makes to his patients’ lives. “One of the best aspects of my job is seeing a patient’s reaction after having done a new denture, crowns or a filling. The patients look at themselves in the mirror and blush at the sight of their own smile; I watch them fall in love with themselves again.”

For Roné Pietersen, Life Sciences and Natural Sciences Educator at the Cape Academy of Mathematics, Science and Technology (CAMST), obtaining a Paarl Media Bursary allowed her to be the first person in her family to obtain a degree.

“I realised from a young age that education would be the key to thrive amidst adversity. My teachers inspired me to strive beyond my circumstances; because of thisI had a strong desire to follow a career where I could inspire individuals facing similar difficulties. Teaching afforded me the platform to reach out and impart my story while sharing my passion for sciences,” explains Pietersen.

Roné Pietersen obtained a BEd with Further Education and Training (FET) at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in 2014.

“It is vital that corporates step up to the plate to address the issues that we face in our communities. It is only by working together that we will be able to make a difference,” concludes Metcalfe.