To quote the late Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.” Add to this the powerful proverb, “A child without education is like a bird without wings.” We couldn’t agree more and that is why Africa Foundation, our community development partner, created a scholarship programme back in 1996 called the Community Leaders Education Fund (CLEF) to identify, assist, educate and mentor the natural leaders in the communities surrounding our wildlife reserves.
The CLEF bursary programme provides partial funding to students from identified rural communities that border conservation areas. The objective is to hone and develop natural leadership potential by offering deserving students the opportunity to improve their career opportunities by studying at a local college or university. In return, students are required to ‘pay it forward’ by giving back to their communities during their holidays by conducting an activity that involves and uplifts the community (e.g., community clean-up campaigns, helping at local clinics or assisting with career guidance at high schools).
This year, CLEF celebrates its 20th anniversary and to date, more than 470 students from local African communities have received assistance enabling them to pursue a college or university education. Among these successful graduates are 14 medical doctors, 32 engineers, 169 educators, 24 accountants, 22 lawyers and 12 environmentalists.
Last month, &Beyond and Africa Foundation held our annual CLEF Excellence Awards to honour and recognise the achievements of the 2015 CLEF graduates. In attendance was Grace Zuma, the inaugural CLEF bursary recipient 20 years ago.
On this #ThankfulThursday, we hereby share Mama Grace’s inspiring speech of gratitude, as well as a heartfelt note of thanks from Noxolo Sibuyi, one of the current students that &Beyond and Africa Foundation are raising funds for.
Education is the key to building brighter futures and we give thanks to everyone that has supported the CLEF programme throughout the years.
“I am Mrs. Grace Zuma who studied at her late years in 1995. My dream was to further my studies, but I had no money. I heard about the CLEF bursary programme from Mr. Isaac Tembe [of Africa Foundation], who gave us forms and I applied. After a few days, I got a letter inviting me to an interview. When I arrived there I was so scared to see a group of people (interview committee) since it was my first time to be in an interview. After a few days, I got a letter informing me that CLEF has offered me a bursary. I was so excited, such that I did not sleep at night, my heart was jumping up and down full of extreme joy. In 1996 I went to Promat College of Education in Durban to further my studies. By that time I was 46 years of age. I enrolled there and I wrote a letter to CLEF about my journey to Promat College.
Every term end I would send my results to CLEF until I finished my diploma in 1998. Then I went to Nibela Primary School with my diploma full of confidence. In 2001 I was promoted to be HOD (Head of Department). I was so thankful to CLEF, because if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have achieved my dreams. Now I am a pensioner and I enjoy my money every month. I have no stress. I am a happy gogo [grandmother].
It is not too late to achieve your dreams. Mandela once said, ‘Education is the key to unlock all closed doors.’ To young people: first things first, forget about things that won’t take you anywhere. Forget about drugs. Forget about friends who have no future. Hang around with people of your destination. Aim high in your life. The sky is the limit. Always pray to God.”
~ Grace Zuma
“To all the &Beyond fundraisers. The greatest gift that one can get is the opportunity to fulfil their career aspirations. A big thank you for putting in a lot effort in raising the funds. I know this sounds cliché, but no words can express how grateful I am. Your effort will make a huge contribution in creating more educated leaders and history makers in this country.”
~ Noxolo Sibuyi