John Matungula, a refugee student from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who lives in Plumstead, was among those honoured at an awards ceremony by the Access Trust which provides bursaries for students who cannot afford tertiary education fees.
At the event, held at the College of Cape Town in Pinelands on Saturday February 18, Dr Ruben Richards, chairperson of the trust, said it enabled students to study at Technical Vocational, Education and Training (TVET) colleges through the bursary scheme which is the flagship programme of the organisation.
Mr Matungula, currently a student at College of Cape Town, was given a top achievers award in Engineering studies, after he achieved 100 percent for Engineering Science and 93 percent for mathematics. He was all smiles as he received his award and explained that he came to South Africa when he was just five years old.
“Due to a lack of opportunities in the DRC and the ongoing civil war, my father decided to bring us over.”
After completing matric in 2015, he decided to study, but his parents were unable to pay for his studies. “I decided to Google bursary funds and coincidentally I stumbled upon the Acess Trust.
“I decided to walk to their offices in Wynberg to enquire about how I could apply. As soon as I stepped out of the door, they called me back.
“I decided to study engineering because I enjoy working with my hands. My ultimate goal is to obtain a degree in Mathematics and Science from the University of Cape Town (UCT),” he said.
Dr Richards said the bursary programme, which was started in 1998 and had already supported 3 000 students, was started because there was a need for vocational training in the country.
“I am a fitter and turner by profession and my father was a postman who only had a Grade 5 education.
“This is the reason I am passionate about giving vulnerable youth the opportunity to study a trade,” he said.
His mission is to build an “army of blue collar workers” who ultimately form the backbone of South Africa’s economy. “We provide students with mentoring and we play an almost surrogate parent role to ensure that the students are employable when they finish their studies.”
The organisation’s director, Helga Jansen-Daugbjerg, said the Access Trust Bursary Fund has been a game-changer for the past 18 years. “It remains one of very few independent sources of funding for public TVET Colleges. This year we welcome new students to the fund, and celebrate the academic achievements of top performers. In 2015 the fund extended 10 percent of its value to support African national students,” she explained. Dr Richards said they did this is to level the playing field among the youth and to stem the tide of xenophobic violence in the city.
Washeem Toffar of Tafelsig, who passed away a month ago, was given a posthumous certificate to acknowledge his commitment and loyalty to the Access Trust. Washeem passed away in his sleep. He was only 22 years old.
His mother Salama, father Junaid and brother Moegamad Junaid Daniels received the award on his behalf.
Mr Daniels and his family were visibly upset when they accepted the award at the weekend.
Ms Jansen-Daugbjerg said Washeem had been passionate about the hospitality industry and his dream had been to work at one of the top restaurants in the middle east.
His mother Salama said her son’s passion for baking was ignited as a child.
“My late mother, Gadija, would place him on the kitchen table while she cooked and baked. He would just watch in amazement. Losing a son is not easy but we are grateful he is in a happier place,” she said.
His brother Moegamad Junaid, 17, who recently completed his matric at Mondale High School and plans to study Film and Media Studies at UCT, said he missed his big brother but knew he would want him to move on with his life.
Nicole Bosman of Lotus River, a Public Management student at False Bay College, was given the Outstanding Academic Performance award in absentia for achieving a distinction.
To learn more about the Access Trust call 021 797 3118 or visit www.accesstrust.org.za