With the focus during August being on the role of women in South African society, it’s important to work towards changing the mindset of young women from impoverished communities.Many teenage girls have no vision of themselves playing leading roles in our society and economy, yet there is no valid reason for this being the case.
Bonny Feldman, Communications & Development Officer at the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), comments on this. “My experience when talking to secondary school learners about careers and studies – in particular to Grade 12 learners – is that the vast majority of them have little idea about what role they could fill in the economy in a few years’ time.
“The girls are particularly reticent about their futures,” she explains. The problem is worse in rural areas, where role models for young people from poor homes are rare.
“Where girls have an idea about what they want to do, it’s seldom something that our society recognises as a leading career,” says Feldman. “More boys than girls mention fields such as engineering, chartered accountancy and medicine,” she says, “and it appears that girls still tend to see themselves in secondary positions in the workforce.”
Yet, with the large number of female-headed households in South Africa, it is imperative that the earning potential of women improves – and this can be achieved through studies that will lead to a career in a scare-skills field.
“Both girls and boys from poor communities should be aware that a lack of personal finances is not a valid reason for failing to continue with studies after school. The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) was set up specifically with this in mind – it administers over R3-billion in funding for studies,” Feldman explains.
While the majority of students receive State loans to pay for their studies, there are also many bursaries available through NSFAS. These cover a range of fields of study – engineering, IT, accountancy, actuarial science, teaching, social work, as well as a number of different fields covered by the National Certificate (Vocational) offered by Further Education & Training (FET) Colleges.
Feldman urges Grade 12 learners to select an appropriate field of undergraduate study and to apply to a public University or University of Technology without delay. “Use your Grade 12 June examination results and apply now,” she says, “otherwise you may miss the cut-off date for applications for the 2010 academic year.”