SAVEd from abyss

Eric Naki

Eric Naki

In a few years' time the rural town of Wesselsbron in the Free State could have its own black chartered accountants, an engineer and even an IT and web designer.

This is all thanks to a community initiative to raise funds to send local matriculants to tertiary institutions.

Queen Mpatane, 19, is one of nine beneficiaries of a bursary fund initiated by the black residents under the stewardship of local ANC activists.

This former matriculant from Hoërskool Sandveld, who finished her matric in 2006, had no hope of going as far as university level.

But today Mpatane is doing her BCom in Information Technology at the University of Johannesburg's Kingsway campus.

Credit must be given to the community that vowed to help her and eight others realise their dreams to study at a university.

"I had no hope of getting there, so it is an honour for me to be given a bursary," says a beaming Mpatane . "When I got it again in 2007 I said, wow, my work is being noticed."

She reveals that she has a dream of one day becoming a web designer, a rather unusual career for a girl from a small rural town.

"I want to start my own web design company," she says. "For us blacks IT is something new and we have to break through the ceiling to get there.

Not realising that this ambitious statement exposes her strong political upbringing, she goes on to tell Sowetan that she is the project and campaign officer of the SA Students Congress.

What can one expect from a first-born girl, the apple of her father's eye, who is mighty proud to be the first in her family to go to university?

Zulu "Bazooka" Mpatane, her father, is a leading political activist and councillor in the area.

Like Queen, Neo Sehloho, 18, has ambitions of becoming the first black chartered accountant in the Free State after finishing her BCom in Accounting.

"After all this I want to train towards being a CA," says Sehloho, who matriculated at the local Iphateleng High School.

"I want to give back to the community because I was unsure about what to do when I finished matric and they pointed me in the right direction."

Two other Iphateleng matriculants, Mpho Khoetha, 19 and Victor Mathiso, 18, are at Wits University in Johannesburg.

Khoetha is doing his second year towards a BAAccounting degree, while Mathiso is a first-year BSc Engineering student.

"The money helped us a lot because at the time I did not even have enough money to register," Mathiso says.

Mathiso plans to be an electrical engineer. His friend Mpho also dreams of becoming a CA. He is determined not to disappoint the community.

The bursaries also caters for four other students at the University of Free State - one at North University and the other at the Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein.

Smanga Seleme and Gordon Takani each donate R12000 to the fund every year, while four Ward 2 councillors at the Nala municipality agreed to contribute part of their salaries to the fund.

The bursary fund was initiated by the Barney Molokoane ANC branch in Wesselsbron after residents became concerned about the many youths roaming the streets.

The Seobi Mohapi Educational Trust, named after an ANC veteran and former branch treasurer, was founded in September 2006.

"This is the brainchild of the branch," says branch secretary Shila Mokhoabane. "We canvassed local councillors, school principals, businesspeople and government officials, who all responded positively. But we want more businesspeople and farmers from surrounding areas to come on board."

The initial five students were granted R2500 each for registration but the allocation was increased to R5000 to cover other expenses when four more students were sent to tertiary institutions.

"We want to raise more funds so that we can plough back into our community," says Mokhoabane, who can be reached on 082-307-1215.