By KAMVELIHLE NETJIES
GBS Mutual Bank on Wednesday 29 May awarded bursaries valued at R200 000 to eight academically deserving students from Rhodes University. The bursaries are to support Makhanda students who are not funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) – a group who often struggle to pay fees, referred to as “the missing middle”.
Accepting the cheque, Rhodes University’s Vice Chancellor Dr Sizwe Mabizela, expressed the institution’s appreciation. He said the GBS contribution would ensure those students had the opportunity to further their studies in commerce.
“When I became the Vice Chancellor of Rhodes I committed to ensure that no academically deserving young person will be turned away from Rhodes University simply because he or she happens to have been born into a family of meagre means,” Mabizela said.
“I further committed that I would make it my special responsibility to ensure that we make it possible for any academically capable young person to access quality and life-changing education that we provide at Rhodes University, regardless what their family’s issues are. There is no better investment that any nation can make, than ensuring that its young people have access to quality education.”
GBS Mutual Bank Managing Director, Anton Vorster said they were delighted and proud to have a role and to invest in the Makhanda community.
“It is no small thing that we are a mutual bank and mutuality mean something to us. It means collectively, we have an interest and it is no secret that we have an interest in education.
‘We would like these funds to go to students who reside and were educated in Makhanda, who fall outside of NSFAS and have progressed beyond first year in the commerce faculty,” he said.
“As GBS we are happy to support our community and Rhodes, as we have been working for more than 100 years now,” said Mr Foster.
Each year GBS Mutual Bank invests money in Makhanda schools and NGOs.
One of GBS’s projects is a Financial Life Skills Programme which aims to assist youth in schools and businesses in managing their financial lives.
“So far there have been three thousand people on these programmes,” Vorster said.
“It is not Rhodes only that we are supporting, but also the community as a whole. So far we have invested R1.3 million in community projects for resources like water tanks at local schools.”
GBS has stipulated that the bursaries should be directed to specifically to students from Makkanda.
To the students, Vorster said, “May you grow and continue to flourish in these difficult times.”
One of the bursary recipients, a 21 year old second year BComm Accounting student, Babalwa Nogoqa, was thrilled.
“I could not believe it when I received an email until we came to the handover,” Nogoqa said. “I was shocked to be chosen from a huge number of hopeful students. This will motivate me to study even harder and acquire good marks.
“I am ready to give it my all,” she said.
One of the oldest banks in Makhanda, GBS Mutual Bank and Rhodes University have a long-standing relationship of mutual support. Mabizela told the recipients that the University does not expect anything less than exceptional academic performance from them.
“And if you do well, you will be creating opportunities for others to benefit from the bursaries like you did. We will provide feedback to GBS who will be monitoring your results.”
“We are grateful to GBS Mutual Bank for coming back again over many years of working together, to sponsor our students,” he said.
Mabizela referred to the term “Uzophosa Esivivaneni” – a heap of stones that by the side of footpaths in rural areas. These heaps are built by those walking on the path, who stop to pick up a stone to put on the pile every time they pass it.
“In this way, they clear the path for those who come afterwards, so they don’t stumble on them..
“We fully appreciate that you came to put your stone on our efforts to make sure that students further their studies,” Mabizela said to Vorster.
The Dean of Commerce Professor David Sewry spoke on behalf of the Commerce Faculty and the community of Makhanda with gratitude for GBS’s contribution to the youth, as well as the community as a whole.
“When you look after the pennies, the pounds shall look after themselves,” Sewry said. If GBS and Rhodes look after education then maybe, just maybe, society will look after itself.”