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Car designer's dream shattered

By unknown | Mar 26, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Augustine Mabasa is a young man living in Malamulele - a rural village in Giyani, Limpopo.

Augustine Mabasa is a young man living in Malamulele - a rural village in Giyani, Limpopo.

Like young people of his age he has a dream. His dream is to become an engineer.

Mabasa's bane is that he is from a poor family. He has passed matric but he does not have money to go to a tertiary institution to pursue his dream.

To kill time, Mabasa has designed a car - which he has named "Augma"- that runs on a 10-litre petrol tank.

A week ago finance minister and member of the ANC national executive committee, Trevor Manuel, told black professionals that the education system in this country left much to be desired.

Very few of us, Manuel said, could be proud of the quality of the product coming out of our tertiary institutions.

He went on to say that South Africa needed to invest in research and development - if it was to develop its manufacturing sector and create more jobs.

Manuel also indicated that the long-term objective of the ANC-led government was to have a situation where all South Africans who qualify to go to tertiary institutions were afforded the opportunity to do so - poor or not.

Currently the government has the National Student Assistance Fund - from which students who cannot afford tertiary tuition can apply for assistance. The criticism against the system has been that - being in the form of loans - it leads poor and mostly black students into a debt trap.

By the time these students qualify they are faced with such a huge debt, which they have to service for years, while their counterparts from advantaged backgrounds cruise into their working lives in relative material comfort.

Mabasa obviously qualifies for the NSAF loan.

For whatever reason, he did not register with any tertiary institution where he could then apply for financial assistance as a destitute student.

All we know is that Mabasa is not furthering his studies . Unless he does so, he is not going to fulfil his dream of becoming an engineer and design cars.

It is obvious that Mabasa is talented. The fact that he has such a rare skill should mean that he would be regarded as a pearl that should be polished and allowed to shine.

Unfortunately he is a victim of an educational system that does not nurture talent.

The reality is that such a system exists in a country where there is a shortage of specialised skills like engineering.

What this country needs is not just a system that ensures that all the poor, like Mabasa, have unhindered access to tertiary education, but we also need a system whereby talent is identified in early years and then nurtured.

Such a system must treat the likes of Mabasa as national treasures that have to be protected.

It entails having mechanisms in place, for example at high school, which would have enabled Mabasa's teachers to identify his talent and nurture it.

Part of that nurturing entails ensuring that Mabasa has, among others, financial support to ensure that his poor background does not hinder him from becoming the engineer that he dreams about becoming.

The United States has a system where talented basketball players from poor families receive scholarships to go and study at universities.

In most instances these young men's talents are identified at high school and then they are put on a programmes where they have agents who give them guidance and ensure that they develop their talents to the fullest.

Why can't the same principle be applied in the case of the Mabasa's of this world?

Until then Mabasa seems doomed to spent his days driving around in his car in the dusty streets of Malamulele - where the only recognition he gets is from the adoring children who scream "Augma" whenever they see him.


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