Bursaries and university to upskill youth

Plans are at an advanced stage to build the Ekurhuleni Applied Sciences and Technology University, according to Caiphus Chauke, head of the department of the Ekurhuleni Finance and Economic Development portfolio.

Chauke made this announcement during his presentation at the Ekurhuleni Youth Economic Summit and Career Expo last week. He said the City has made progress in the planning issues and that the council would soon finalise the appointment of a university advisory panel to advise on the best model for the university.

This is part of positioning Ekurhuleni as the South African and sub-Saharan hub for industry-focused education and skills training, Chauke said. The state-of-the-art university will be one-of-a-kind and its faculties will include schools of innovation and design, water treatment, engineering, aviation and aerospace.

“Quality education underpins the success of all government strategies, as skills and capacity play a crucial role in an effective and highly productive labour force,” said Chauke.

To take advantage of opportunities in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the City of Ekurhuleni needs a technically capable, technologically capacitated and knowledgeable youth, said executive mayor Mzwandile Masina during his presentation at the youth summit.

“We held a successful University Symposium that gave us valuable insights on the path to take towards realising this vision, with a recommendation to establish an Applied Science and Technology University. This new generation university is currently being conceptualised through the development of a business case. This will provide the youth of Ekurhuleni with the opportunity to lead the country as the first to enrol in such a university. Our planning process towards the establishment of such a university will equip the youth with a unique skill set that is currently associated with advanced countries such as Japan, China, South Korea and the United States that are leading in the areas of science, technology and robotics,” said Masina.

“While we recognise that the core implementation and establishment of a university is outside of our jurisdiction as a municipality, through a public-private partnership we believe that we can accelerate the realisation of this idea-generating institution of higher learning. The minister of higher education has since acknowledged our request and assigned officials to work with us towards realising the establishment of a university in Ekurhuleni.”

Masina reiterated that the council would soon finalise the appointment of the university advisory panel, comprising technically competent specialists who will advise the City on the best possible model.

“As part of our strategy to develop an airport city — the aerotropolis — we also have a focus towards developing it into a smart city. This means it has to be a city with it productivity rooted in digitisation, information technology and robotics, and naturally steeped towards the age of artificial intelligence. We envision a city of the future in which transport services, logistics, manufacturing, storage capabilities, information services and trade services are increasingly mechanised and improved by artificial intelligence.”

To address skills development and challenges posed by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Masina said the municipality has introduced a bursary scheme for qualifying individuals in different priority fields, to ensure that there is constant supply of the necessary critical skills in Ekurhuleni.

“Since taking over the administration in 2016, we have increased our bursary funding from R10-million to R100-million. To date, we can report that the City of Ekurhuleni has been able to assist 1 757 students in their pursuit of academic qualifications during 2017/18. As we continue to sustain the current bursary holders, we have also resolved to award an additional 500 new bursaries to academically deserving students out of the 2 802 bursary applicants who met the qualifying criteria. Our intention is to double this amount and go beyond R250-million by 2021, to complement the implementation of free education as advocated by the ANC-led government,” Masina said.

“These are meaningful contributions we can make in realising the legacy left by the 1976 generation and to ensure that the doors of learning and culture remain open to all young people regardless of their race, background and gender, as pronounced in the Freedom Charter.”

Chauke said the community bursary scheme was given to students based on merit. He said the bursaries were allocated through the normal competitive process, based on the discretion of the Ekurhuleni Bursary Committee and the city manager, and working in consultation with ward councillors.

“30% of the Community Bursary Scheme was allocated through the Executive Mayor Discretionary award process,” said Chauke.

The bursary covers full registration fees, tuition material, prescribed textbooks, examination fees, accommodation and a living expenses allowance. 

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