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By unknown | Nov 13, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Tshepo Matseba

Former president Nelson Mandela once said: "Education is the great engine to personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mine worker can become the head of the mine, that the child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation.

"It is what we make of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another."

Madiba also said: "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."

South Africa is faced with numerous socio-economic challenges, in particular, rising unemployment among the youth. This is partly due to poverty and uncoordinated efforts to reduce skills shortages. Also, a tendency by parents not to make provision for their children's education.

Today a university degree will cost an average of R60 000 a year. For a poor child in a rural area or township this becomes a dream.

The government has put in place a number of initiatives to help poor people. One of them is the National Student Financial Aid Scheme of South Africa (NSFAS).

Its aim is to impact on the racially skewed student, diplomat and graduate population by providing sustainable financial aid that enables academically deserving and financially needy students to meet their and South Africa's development needs.

A number of students have benefited from NSFAS and other government-led initiatives. But the high unemployment rate and lack of skills and qualifications among most young South Africans proves that more needs to be done.

It is easy to blame the government and others for the situation but this will not change the situation. Instead, parents - whether working class, middle- or high-income earners - can play an important role in their children's education. No matter how small the contribution, it might change lives and turn the situation around.

Marius Lock, head of marketing at a leading financial institution, says one way of changing the situation is for parents to start looking at education plans offered by life insurance companies.

"Education planning is a critical component of the entire financial planning process," Lock says.

" South Africa has a very low savings rate, which indicates that people here have a high propensity for not to saving. Saving for education then becomes the last priority on their budgets."

Lock says that it is crucial for parents to start saving for their children's education from the day they are born.

"If you start planning today you will manage to combat the cost of delay," he says. "For example, if you start saving when a child is 10 you are more likely to pay more costs and fees than a person who starts when a child is two."

For from as little as R300 a month parents can secure their child's future education needs.


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