There has been a lot of talk, and finally some action, around the cost of education in South Africa. These talks and protests have revolved mainly around how the cost of tertiary education has become a barrier for many young South Africans to be educated and thus employable.

It hasn't all been in vain.

Earlier in 2018, South Africa's government announced that it will be offering free higher education. For this purpose, the country's Treasury allocated R57 billion over the next 3 years to make this possible. This, however, covers only those students who come from households where the total income is a maximum of R350,000.

So, what happens to the rest of the students who can't afford to fund their education?

Funding education in South Africa

To understand the alternative methods of funding higher education studies and to learn how South Africa can improve its Mathematics and Science education rankings, I had a chat with Mala Suriah, Chief Marketing Officer at Fundi - an education finance and education fund management solution company in South Africa.

To date, Fundi reports that it has assisted approximately 850,000 students with education funding to the tune of a collective value of R4,5 billion. On 29 October 2018, the company will also be hosting the Fundi Education Forum in Johannesburg. The event will see innovators, government officials, former presidents and business collaborate and discuss how to fast track solutions for Afrika’s education challenges.

iAfrikan: Given recent talks and discussions in South Africa about free education, where does Fundi fit in?

Mala Suriah: At Fundi we know that the pure or mere financing of a student is insufficient to ensure that the student will be successful. The success of a student rests on many aspects of the education process/journey. This includes the emotional well-being of the student; the physical strength of the learner and the access to learning tools and services- funding is a part of these critical factors.

Fundi originated over 23 years ago as an educational loans business, today Fundi’s revenue has shifted and grown in other areas that support and service the wholistic student. A student needs to live somewhere, to eat, to travel, to buy books, etc.  Fundi plays its role in ensuring that learner dreams are enabled by simplifying the education journey and ensuring access to everything that enables learning.

Does Fundi finance any kind of studies at any level?

Yes, Fundi provides finance for all levels of educational studies – from pre-school to higher education, including MBA and other post degree studies. In addition, Fundi funds educational tools and devices ranging from laptops/uniforms/phones/iPads/accommodation/texts books/transport  etc. Fundi will become the “take a lot ” of education, the vision then is to fund all educational and learning services and tools from cradle to post retirement.

What are your thoughts on the future of education and trends we need to look out for?

At Fundi, we believe that the future is now. Common trends include: digital learning; self-learning; learning on demand; experiential learning; increased technology driven subjects and modules; device enabled learning. However, these future trends noted above are happening in silos and for a niche market. Digitilisation and the pervasive advent of technology will bring about an accelerated culture of innovation/invention and adoption of futurist ways to teach/learn and educate others. It is common knowledge that there is a significant disconnect between what is currently taught in classrooms and what future jobs will look like.

We believe that if business, innovators, entrepreneurs, government collaborate we could see a new trend emerge in education – this trend would bring on an industrialised implementation of more visual and experiential  learning,  more digital devices and gadgets in the classrooms and we would see a new priority of subjects – these would include technology, robotics, coding, internet of things, artificial intelligence, 4D Designing, etc. I predict that these changes will happen from as early as pre-school levels.

South Africa usually ranks among lowest countries in Math and Science education, how can this be improved?

Some possible quick wins could include:

1.    Math and science should be compulsory for all learners, as these subjects become the bases for future jobs such as digital designers; robotics; artificial intelligence; internet of things , analytics etc.

2.    More experiential learning and new age methods of teaching and learning math and science – Fundi recently went through a process to seek out and identify pockets of innovation in education. We were pleasantly surprised to establish how many young African innovators exist in South Africa. These entrepreneurs have mostly focused on inventing devices, apps, robots, and methods of teaching next generation vocations with math and science as a key focus area. The reason behind most of these recognized inventions is due to the fact that they personally experienced poor access to optimizing their learning experience in both the math and science disciplines.


Cover image credit: Mala Suriah, CMO at Fundi.