Bursary Case Study #5 – Babalwa Mtshawuli

Babalwa Mtshawuli was born in Mount Frere in the Eastern Cape where she completed her primary schooling. She decided to move to Masiphumelele at the age of 14 in pursuit of a better education and stayed with her aunt while completing her matric at the high school. She knew from as early as grade 9 that she wanted to work in a position that would allow her to give back to the community and was initially attracted to social work.

Babalwa later applied to join the Masicorp bursary scheme on the advice of several older students who she knew had participated in previous years. By this time her career planning had turned to working in a health facility. She arrived for an interview with an impressive set of high school results, particularly in the difficult subject areas of mathematics and physics. She had received an offer to study nursing at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and the interview panel was pleased to offer her a bursary to being study in 2011.


After four years of excellent theoretical grades and practical classes Babalwa graduated in March of this year. She is currently working at Alexander Psychiatric Hospital in Maitland as a sister in charge of one the wards. Some of her best grades during the four years of study were achieved in psychiatric nursing and this is an area she has happily specialised in during her work. If time and money allow she would like to continue studying psychiatric nursing at masters level, and she is currently considering the possibility of taking a part time course.

Babalwa has now moved out of Masiphumelele and has been sharing a flat with other nurses close to the hospital in Maitland. However, she is regularly in touch with Masicorp and has generously offered to speak about her experiences on occasions such as our recent event at the British High Commission.  We were particularly pleased to see her at the recent graduation ceremony for the Evangeline Ministries / Masicorp life skills course, Babalwa was the guest speaker for the event and is seen here presenting the students with their completion certificates.

Sewing Cafe Graduation 2015 - photo by Louise de Waal (115)

Babalwa has been an excellent student and has made the best of the bursary opportunity provided. We look forward to keeping in touch with her in the years to come as her career in nursing continues

Higher Education Dropout Rates and the Masicorp Bursary Scheme

The Council on Higher Education (CHE) and Department of Higher Education and Training have expressed concerns over the high dropout rates at South African universities. Despite the critical need for high level skills, particularly amongst the country’s previously disadvantaged groups, it seems the higher education system remains difficult for young people to access and complete successfully.

t-shirt South Africa’s university dropout rates are high by international standards. They have been around 50% since the 1990’s, and the most recent statistics indicate a worrying further decline to 58%. This compares unfavourably with the UK (16%), France (19%) and the United States (30%). While these are clearly developed economies, even a comparison with other African nations indicates problems for South Africa. The other two African nations with a similar sized higher education system, Nigeria and Ethiopia, have estimated dropout rates of 20% and 35%, respectively.

The reasons for South Africa’s high dropout rates include financial constraints (students enrol for courses but do not have funding to see them through), lack of academic preparedness and lack of support while at universities. This is where the Masicorp bursary programme can play a huge role. The Masicorp bursary system removes financial uncertainty, and the role of the mentors is crucial in providing the non-academic emotional support that students seem unable to access on campus.

LOYThe dropout rate among the 50+ students that have passed through the bursary programme is less than 10%. More than a third of all students entering higher education in South Africa drop out in the first semester, when the shock of moving away from home and the reality of the step up in educational standards really hits. None of the Masicorp bursary students has ever dropped out at this stage thanks to the support and encouragement provided by the programme. We have many success stories among our graduates who have gone on to find employment in their fields of expertise. This week we will be sharing some of these success stories. Please check back here later in the week to read our updates.


For a case study of Mechanical Engineering graduate Olwethu Mlaza please click HERE

For a case study of Management graduate Lungelwa Mkokeli please click HERE

Back to College for our Bursary Students

In the last two weeks all of our bursary students have returned to their student residences around Cape Town ready to tackle semester 2 of the academic year. The different academic institutions have slightly staggered start dates so it has been a busy couple of weeks for the Masicorp volunteers and student mentors that have kindly transported the students, and their belongings, back to campus.

SIMThis year we put two days aside to meet with each student individually, and discuss their progress. Programme manager Susan De Vaux has had to travel out to the city to meet our three student nurses, who have had a short break due to their internships keeping them busy in medical centres around the city. The remaining students met up with us in Masiphumelele during their vacation time. It was a chance to check that academic progress was on track, but also to confirm that personal circumstances and finances are also satisfactory. With the rising cost in living we offered an extension to the living allowance that forms the student loan component of the bursary and most students welcomed the increase enthusiastically.

As ever most concern centered around the first years who were living away from home for the first time, and had to make the difficult step up to tertiary education from the high school. From their results it was clear that they had done this well, with good passes in subjects they were familiar with from school – including maths and English communication. Sadly there were a few fails in modules where the subject matter was more specialised and completely new to the students (e.g., soil science and computer aided design). The role of the mentor is important here to keep the student reassured following the inevitable knock to the confidence that this generates. At high school the students were the best performers in their year, but now find themselves in lectures with even higher achieving students from all across the city.

For each student with a fail we have arranged an action plan for recovery to get them through the year. In many cases the university offers a resit in the second semester, while some courses can be recovered in their second year. The bursary provides funds for extra tuition where needed, and the students will be able to access the private coaching that is offered on campus. In most cases this is a great relief when they realise the costs are covered in the programme. We also have a pool of retired teachers/lecturers that can also give their time to help with areas that are particularly problematic.

UWCThis week the Research SA organisation published this report on higher education in South Africa. There are some worrying statistics here for the country as a whole with a 33% drop out rate in the first year of HE courses. At Masicorp we have an overall drop-out rate of just around 10% over the eight years of the scheme, which is largely thanks to the excellent work of our mentors on the ground, our generous funders and the careful management of our students. This time last year we reported a 100% success rate for our new students, and we hope to be reporting similar good news at the end of this academic year as a result of our careful monitoring of student progress.

Higher Education Opportunities for Masiphumelele Students

For the past ten years Masicorp has been running a student bursary program that has allowed over fifty students from Masiphumelele to access tertiary education in Cape Town.  In South Africa, tertiary education is partially State funded through a student loan scheme and, for some vocational courses, a State bursary. The Masicorp bursary provides the additional support that can permit students to complete the full three or four years of a degree course.

Succeeding in higher education is about much more than just meeting the costs of the course. In South Africa the national drop-out rate is over 60%, even for well-funded students. By providing mentoring that includes course selection and one to one guidance throughout the duration of a course, Masicorp has managed to bring the drop-out rate down to just 15% for students on the bursary program. Students that have performed well during secondary school and have met university entrance requirements are invited by Masicorp to apply for a bursary.

As well as covering course fees and providing study materials, including a lap-top the bursary covers the cost of a hall place. Accommodation away from the hustle and bustle of township life provides a quiet study environment for all students. An experienced mentor — a member of our Masicorp team —acts as their friend, guide and advisor throughout their time in the bursary programme and particularly in that difficult first semester when the transition away from family life must be managed. Masicorp organises regular progress reviews and meetings for the students, in which they can swap experiences with each other.

Usually we hope to fund five students through courses of their choice. For example, here is the class of 2010 at one of their regular get-togethers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe are again fortunate to have found sponsors for five students to start in January 2014. We do however need more sponsors for following years. Could you help us find sponsors or even consider sponsoring a student yourself?

The cost of our bursary for a 3 or 4 year course is R16,500 annually [$2,000/£1,250]. Sponsors can support an individual student or share the costs with family or friends or contribute any amount to our general bursary fund. You will receive an annual progress report from our team and your sponsored student. In addition you will receive the satisfaction that you are providing one of Masiphumelele’s young adults with the one genuine route out of poverty – an education.

For more information please contact our bursary programme director, Marjan Ritchie (marjan@masicorp.org / +27 [0]83 273 5353).