/ 1 October 2008

Black CA numbers on the rise

The country’s relatively small pool of black chartered accountants is growing — thanks to the success of a programme by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants, in partnership with several universities.

The Thuthuka programme consists of a mixed bag of interventions, such as financial aid, academic support, life-skills education, community interaction and work placement for beneficiaries.

Universities that are part of the initiative are Johannesburg, Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Pretoria, Witwatersrand, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan and Free State (the latter from 2009).

At Stellenbosch University (SU) the programme started with a first-year intake of 20 BAcc students in 2007, growing to 29 this year. Professor Pieter von Wielligh, head of auditing at SU’s department of accounting and responsible for the Thuthuka programme, says the institution provides extensive academic and non-academic support for its students.

“Although the department of accounting stands at the centre of the project, it draws on resources and skills from a vast array of departments and divisions throughout the university, as well as from organisations in audit practice and commerce and industry. The Thuthuka students are looked after by a dedicated project manager who is a lecturer in the department,” he says.

“The 2007 first-year group achieved, in all subjects, an average per subject of either equal to or exceeding the class averages of the full cohort of first-year BAccounting students,” says Von Wielligh.

Thuthuka students take part in the normal academic programme for BAccounting (BAcc) students. They are required, however, to attend all the extensive additional support lectures, practicals and tutorial classes offered in all subjects. In particular, in their first year, they attend six lecturers a week in financial accounting (their core subject), as opposed to the normal four lectures, providing them with more contact time with lecturers to master the content.

The students are required to do vacation work during at least one university break a year, as well as to participate in a community involvement project of their choice, on which they are required to report back.

For the duration of their studies the students live in university accommodation in close proximity to allow them to support one another.

Senior Thuthuka students act as mentors for junior Thuthuka students.

The academic and social well-being of the students, both individually and as a group, is carefully monitored on a continual basis and, where necessary, timeous interventions are effected.

Von Wielligh says the department’s aim is to support and manage the students so that they have the best opportunities to meet the entry requirements for the BAcc honours programme, which they need to pass if they want to eventually qualify as a chartered accountant.