nonhlanhla ambrose with africa foundation clef students in a classroom

A passport to a brighter future

If education is the passport to one’s future, then should we not all have equal access?
by 23rd November 2017

A lifelong advocate for the empowerment of youth through education, the late Nelson Mandela always maintained that “education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” If education is indeed the passport to one’s future, then should we not all have equal access?

With this in mind, our social development partner, Africa Foundation, launched their inventive Community Leaders Education Fund (CLEF) back in 1996. Helping to build brighter futures for more than two decades, this long-standing scholarship programme is aimed at providing partial and much-needed funding for tertiary education to students in the rural communities surrounding &Beyond’s conservation areas in South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania.

Over the past 20+ years, an impressive 659 bursaries have been granted to 438 students in 33 African communities, thereby enabling them to attend college or university. From Mduku and Mnqobokazi outside &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve in South Africa, all the way up to Emurtoto in Kenya’s Masai Mara, Kisangura in Tanzania’s Serengeti and Matemwe on the tropical island of Zanzibar (to name just a few), young learners’ lives across the African continent are being changed for the better and it’s all thanks to the countless generous donors over the years who have paid it forward to enable these promising young men and women a much brighter future.

Through CLEF, Africa Foundation is empowering more than 30 communities that surround our reserves. By recognising, guiding and mentoring the highly capable future leaders in each of these communities, and assisting them to actively pursue their dreams and goals, this in turn lowers the unemployment rates and increases household incomes.

A fair and equal process, the youth in each community are given the opportunity to voluntarily interview for a coveted CLEF bursary. Those deserving, determined and goal-driven young learners that are officially selected in the interview process are provided with partial funding for their tertiary education and are thereby geared with the necessary tools, insights and learnings to improve their career opportunities and future prospects.

We rise by lifting others

Independent, in-depth research into the implementation, rollout, reporting and overall success of this programme over the past two decades has revealed that each graduate has, on average, at least ten family members relying on them directly for support. Given that 386 graduates have successfully obtained their degrees to-date through the support of the CLEF bursary, this means that more than 3 800 people have indirectly benefited. Talk about paying it forward! As you can see, the CLEF programme has tremendous impact and the sheer number of lives it has touched, both directly and indirectly, is a celebration in itself.

A great year for CLEF, 2017 saw the highest number of graduates to-date, with 23 students successfully completing their studies and getting their hands on that hard-earned degree/diploma (from Bachelors in Development, Mathematical Science and Social Work, to Veterinary Science, Education, Engineering and Law).

There are currently 67 students enrolled in the CLEF programme for 2017, 33 of which are living and studying in East Africa (following the success of CLEF in South Africa since 1996, the programme was introduced to the communities surrounding our lodges in Kenya and Tanzania four years ago). With the number of students interviewing for CLEF in East Africa noticeably increasing each year, there has also been a marked increase in the number of females interested in furthering their education, with 13 females receiving funding to-date. This is a tremendous achievement given the traditional gender roles in the Maasai culture, which are now thankfully changing. This year alone, Africa Foundation has channelled USD 94 000 into CLEF bursaries in East Africa.

And, just as the donors paid it forward to enable this education process, a crucial element of the programme is that the CLEF students, too, are required to pay it forward and give back to their communities by way of knowledge sharing. During their holidays, the CLEF students share their newly acquired skills to upskill their peers and encourage them to seek brighter futures as well.

Real people, real success stories

First, meet Simon, a highly driven graduate from the small Lamadi community near &Beyond Grumeti Serengeti Tented Camp. The third-born child, and responsibility-laden first-born son, among his 11 siblings, Simon’s father is a peasant farmer and his mother is a fish vendor. Craving a formal education and wanting to do his family proud, Simon applied for the bursary and ended up having three years at university fully funded by CLEF. The first in his family to go to university, Simon graduated earlier this month with a Bachelor of Economics and is now seeking full-time employment in the banking sector as an economist.

Simon’s dream was to be able to inspire change and opportunity within his family, as well as his community. A dedicated and studious learner throughout, he excelled in his studies and also took a keen interest in the pay-it-forward knowledge sharing aspect of the programme, not only taking the time to educate and inspire his peers, but also his siblings at home.

A particular area of interest, Simon conducted comprehensive research at his community’s secondary school in order to determine the cause of high school dropout among female students. His study highlighted some of the social and cultural ills that negatively affect females in his community and their pursuit of a higher education. The recommendations put forth by Simon in his research conclusions are currently being implemented by the school and we hope will, in turn, encourage consistent female enrolment.

Upon graduating, Simon said, “Being the first one to go to university and get an education comes with a lot of responsibilities. I want to make my parents proud. Africa Foundation, you made me a role model in my family and my community. Because I’m the first one to be a graduate in my family, I have now inspired my younger sisters and brothers. Now they have a spirit for education. My parents are happy with me and now they can talk about a graduate in the family. Africa Foundation made the dreams of my family a reality and now I am looking forward to getting my dream job and putting on a suit and tie!”

Equally inspiring and just as determined, Lindani was the fourth-born among five children being raised by a hardworking single mother. Employed as a housekeeper in the safari industry, Lindani’s mother worked hard as the sole provider for her children and, despite them having to rely on government subsidies from time to time, she instilled the importance of education in each of her five children.

Lindani knew at a young age what she wanted to do with her life. Having participated in an &Beyond Conservation Lesson, the wonders of nature were revealed to her on a game drive alongside her teachers and classmates at &Beyond Kirkman’s Kamp. Despite having grown up just outside the world-famous Sabi Sand Game Reserve in South Africa, Lindani had actually never witnessed the wildlife up close and from this day forward, thanks to her eye-opening &Beyond experience, her love of nature and passion for the tourism industry began.

Lindani says what motivated her to work hard at school was the possibility that she might one day be awarded a CLEF bursary. Determined not to be hindered by her family circumstances, she excelled in her studies thanks to her mother’s support and constant encouragement. Lindani recently graduated with a Diploma in Travel and Tourism Operations and has successfully secured herself her dream job at a safari lodge.

Help pay it forward to the learners of 2018

Interviews are well underway in South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania for the 2018 CLEF bursaries. With over 500 applications received, Africa Foundation has the difficult task of selecting the 100 deserving recipients.

Click here to read some of the heart-warming stories and meet some of the worthy recipients of the 2018 CLEF bursaries.

Thankfully a successful addition to the CLEF programme this year has been the inclusion of partnerships forged with like-minded bursary and education loan providers as a means of assisting as many young learners as possible. With the amount of promising students greatly outnumbering the total bursaries that the CLEF programme is able to provide, Africa Foundation is partnering with similar organisations to help fund as many deserving students as possible. With 67 students directly funded by CLEF this year, an additional 162 students are being indirectly funded via other financial institutions, yet are still receiving support through CLEF’s mentorship programme.

As we near the end of the month, a month traditionally associated with gratitude and thanks, and we officially kick off the season of giving, why not help pay it forward to Africa’s next generation of future leaders? For more information about how you can make a life-changing (and much-needed) contribution to Africa Foundation’s CLEF programme, click here.

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