Nkonzo Mhlongo

Tongaat Hulett is helping rural children unleash their academic potential.

The company is currently funding a total of 16 students at Owen Sitole College of Agriculture. Annually, the company sets aside approximately R600 000 to support these bursary students. The traditional leadership councils covered by the bursary programme include the Macambini and Mkhwanazi tribal councils.

Fourteen (14) students are doing plant production while two students have specialised in animal production. Tongaat Hulett ensures that the bursary students are exposed to all facets of the business during their three years with the college through structured induction programme and work experience programme. 

The structured work experience programme includes one week during their first year of study. The students are allocated to various estates where they are exposed to various aspects of the organisation in order to have a broader understanding of the developmental role of Tongaat Hulett. They are further trained about the importance of safety, health and environment. During their second and third year, the students are given specific projects that they implement in partnership with the relevant estate managers.

Tongaat Hulett in partnership with the South African Sugarcane Research Institute also ensures that the students also attend the Senior Certificate Course in Sugarcane Agriculture. This course ensures that the students have a deepened understanding of sugarcane agriculture. Upon completion of their diploma, the students are recommended to participate in the Agricultural Internship Programme which is a two-year programme aimed at developing graduates into becoming assistant estate managers. 

In 2012/13, Tongaat Hulett signed a Collaboration Agreement with the college through the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in KwaZulu-Natal. One of the key pillars of the agreement was the education and training programme where both parties agreed to support high potential rural learners from the traditional leadership areas where the company operates. 

Tongaat Hulett adopts a hands-on approach when recruiting students for the Tongaat Hulett/Owen Sitole College of Agriculture Bursary Programme. The process starts with the distribution of 2 000 bursary forms to various tribal courts as well as through the various cooperatives and small-scale grower communities in the areas in which the company operates. Following the receipt of the bursary forms, the qualifying students are then invited to write an assessment test which is then followed by the interviews. Once the list of recommended students has been secured, they are recommended to the college.

The company has also partnered with the Mfolozi Technical Vocational and Education Training College to provide work experience opportunities for students in need of experiential learning in the engineering field. This programme starts with a four-month induction programme which focuses on safety, health and environment; and exposure to the different repair, refurbishment and overhaul methods. It also includes a further eight months programme which is divided into three sections: front end; power generation and back end where the students get the opportunity to experience the operations during the crop season. 

Nkonzo Mhlonga

Nkonzo is the SED Manager, Cane and Rural Development Unit, Tongaat Hulett