SITFE’s 50th anniversary was held at the Durban International Convention Centre. SITFE has been instrumental in a variety of education initiatives but its flagship project has always been its bursary scheme. Since its establishment in 1965, SITFE has awarded approximately 10 000 bursaries to tertiary students from the sugarcane growing areas. SITFE is proud to include among its alumni a number of South Africa’s prominent leaders including Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Bonginkosi “Blade” Nzimande, Judge President of the Western Cape, Judge John Hlophe and KZN MEC of Health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, Treasurer General of the ANC, Dr Zweli Mkhize, his wife Dr May Mashego, and Ms Stella Mthembu from RCL Foods.
Discussing the impact that SITFE had on his life and the importance of education in general, Judge Hlophe said: “The bursary gave me opportunities which, with respect I would never have had. I think education was the only way out of poverty, it opened the doors which otherwise could never have been opened.” MEC Dhlomo also extolled SITFE and called for more support for the trust fund. “I think we need to not leave this to them and them alone. We need to expand this. We all should work in partnership. SITFE cannot do it all alone,” he said.
Guests of Honour at the event included former Premier of KZN, Mr Senzo Mchunu, former KZN MEC for Economic Development, Tourism & Environmental Affairs, Mr Mike Mabuyakhulu and a number of high profile alumni. There was a major announcement at the event – it was revealed that SITFE Trustees had decided to award a number of bursaries to the children of sugarcane farmworkers and small-scale farmers to study any degree of their choice.
The inaugural recipients were six children of sugarcane farmworkers. They were awarded bursaries to study a variety of subjects ranging from accounting to hydrology. One successful candidate was Sithembiso Ntanzi. After the death of his mother when he was just in Grade 4, Sithembiso went to join his uncle’s family working on their sugarcane farm in Gingindlovu. He is now studying towards a diploma in electrical engineering at Mangosuthu University of Technology.
Then there is the Ndaba family which received a double dose of good news as both of their daughters Felicia and Phindile received SITFE bursaries. Felicia is studying analytical chemistry while her older sister Phindile is studying geography and hydrology at University of Zululand. Phindile had previously been supported by NSFAS which was contributing 50% of her tuition fees. The effect of the drought on the family’s farm however had meant that the family were unable to cover the remaining 50% of the fees, meaning that Phindile would probably have had to drop out of university.
The current drought that has devastated the farming sector has been particularly bad in the northern KZN regions where the Ndaba family are from, with cane production falling by approximately 45% in some places. It is unlikely that either of the girls would have been able to further their education this year without the assistance of SITFE. “SITFE has opened doors for me. It is through education that I now have a bright future. I am now going to be able to help my family and assist my dad with his farming. I also look forward to giving back to the community,” said Felicia, who is doing her second year at university and set to start her experiential training
Commenting on the 50 years of SITFE’s existence, South African Sugar Association Chairman Rolf Lütge said: “This is a milestone for the SITFE as we celebrate 50 years of social and economic empowerment through education. We proudly recognise all of our past graduates and look forward to supporting many more learners into the future as they prepare to make their own contributions to our broader society.”