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A SWEET REMINDER OF THE HIGH CALLING FOR ECONOMIC EMANCIPATION

A SWEET REMINDER OF THE HIGH CALLING FOR ECONOMIC EMANCIPATION

Recently I attended a meeting with a private college by the name of Maharisha Institute in downtown Johannesburg in a bid to promote a graduate programme that the company I work for was embarking on. Ever heard of the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”, well the cliché is a cliché because it is true. My colleague and I were not ready for the experience we gained at Maharisha a private college funded by Corporate South Africa and other private donors.
The institute offers a five year American bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. The students come from homes that have total gross monthly salary of R4000.00 and who didn’t perform that well enough to be accepted by the likes of UCT and Wits. What surprised me was the kind of eco-system by which the school operated within, the first year of the five year process is dedicated to the bridging of students in order to improve their academic performance. During this time and the rest of 5 year degree they are at school from 8am until 6pm, in which the first hour is dedicated to yoga and meditation. The purpose of the yoga is to relax their mind and spirit, in bid to get over the morning traffic and transport hurdles that impact many of poor people like the recent bus strike and ensure that students can focus on the day’s activities. After that students are in classes, mind you in formal attire for the 6 hours and the rest of the four hours they are allowed to go work in order to help pay towards fees, transport and rent. Moreover, the institute provides decent lunch for all its students and supper for some students. It understands the importance of a full meal in aiding a better academic performance.
What really excited me were the partnerships they have with the business sector to provide learnerships and internships for students during and post the completion of their studies. This has allowed these students to walk out with a degree, experience and job security. However, what surprised me was to hear that Nando’s call centre is run by Maharisha’s students in which the students receive both academic credits and a salary.
We were than taken on a tour of the call centre and needless to say this ecosystem works like a well-oiled machine. We got front row seats to what could happen when the business sector and institutions of learning can come together. It was thus not surprising that the institution was able to achieve a 98% job placement rate for those who have completed their degree and a 90% graduation rate, with many going on to pursue their masters degrees in the US or other leading South African universities.
We of course told them that our graduate programme would be highly competitive with the likes of UCT and Stellenbosch also eyed for possible candidates and yet somehow I have no fear in these young people ability to give the likes of UCT a run for their money. I left the meeting with such pride in my people. In the ability of a black run college’s ability to exude excellence and achieve the true emancipation of young people. I continue to reflect at how the lives of hundreds of black families have been changed by their kids’ ability to be economic participants and break the cycle of poverty. I was left with immense hope that what I saw there can be replicated across our beautiful country. Examples such as this remind that we need to have a conversation about the importance of impact investment in South Africa. I believe that the private sector can do more to invest in sectors that it will in reverse benefit it such as education, which is the heartbeat of quality human capital formulation. Education is not just the responsibility of a government; it is our collective responsibility to promote it and give access to our people every opportunity to develop their potential, be it at a university or college.
However, beyond that there is a need to increase access to job opportunities that will ensure that we don’t end up with an educated yet inexperienced youth population. This will only be achieved with rigorous partnerships between the state, the education sector and the private sector. In this Ramaphosa “new” dawn it is my wish that we realise that the people remain the nation’s greatest asset! It is the people who remain the nation’s greatest hope for complete emancipation! We must not think of the youth as the leaders of tomorrow but the leaders of today! The generation of 1976 in that momentous period took up the baton of leadership; they and not the generation of the freedom charter reignited the fight for our liberation. Moreover, more recently we have seen the #Feesmustfall movement replicate the 1976 generation resolve and made a democratic government make well on its promise for free education. In this youth month let us as a people remember the high calling of true economic emancipation in our lifetime. Thank you Maharisha Institute for the much needed reminder of the high calling!

Musa Mdunge

holds a BA Honours Degree in International Studies, majoring in Economics and Politics.he is a member of the Golden Key Honour Society. In 2015 he was awarded the prestigious Mandela Rhodes Scholarship. He is currently enrolled at Monash University, South Africa, reading for a MPhil specializing in International Studies. He writes in his personal capacity.

A SWEET REMINDER OF THE HIGH CALLING FOR ECONOMIC EMANCIPATION