Empowering the youth to transform their communities – focus on AfroCentric bursaries

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The AfroCentric Group is committed to enhancing the quality of life for all by enabling quality access to healthcare. Our commitment has been demonstrated in various ways over the years, from working with the government to ensure people can access their chronic medication through the Central Chronic Medicine Dispensing and Distribution partnership, to providing mobile clinics towards vaccination support when needed most at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

One area that is critical to enabling access to healthcare is a skilled human resources base. We are proud of our efforts to address the skills shortage in the sector by growing the pipeline of qualified healthcare workers, including doctors. These efforts help increase capacity in the healthcare sector and address the youth unemployment challenges facing our country.

In 2016, the AfroCentric Group awarded bursaries to four young black women from disadvantaged backgrounds. These women had decided to pursue medicine in a country where access to higher education remains a significant challenge for individuals from poor areas, especially rural areas.

The four women — Tovhowani Mulovhedzi, Risuna Rivombo, Maggie Ramela and Masana Baloyi — were selected based on their exceptional results and acumen. Today, they are all in their final year of study at the University of Pretoria and, in the case of Baloyi, at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, formerly known as the Medical University of South Africa (MEDUNSA). 

According to AfroCentric Group Chairman Dr Anna Mokgokong, these bursaries form part of the Group’s mission to bridge the gender gap in the healthcare sector and empower more young women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

This year, two more students, Thato Phahlane and Reratilwe Dikgale, joined the Group’s bursary programme. They are currently studying towards their Bpharm degrees at  North-West University.

Recently, the AfroCentric Group leadership team led by Dr Mokgokong and Group CEO Ahmed Banderker hosted these bright young minds at a lunch, where they not only received encouragement for the remainder of their studies, but were also equipped with the tools required to make their career journey a success. 

After lunch, Bandeker said: “The AfroCentric Group awarded bursaries to aspiring medical students in 2016. This year they are set to complete their studies and commence their internship. These confident young ladies shared their stories (like most of us have), and there wasn’t a dry eye during our lunch with them. For us it wasn’t just about the effort, but about truly holding their hand through the years (especially the last two Covid-19 years). We sometimes lose sight of how deep our investment in people goes. This investment will uplift the individuals and the entire family around them. These doctors will do wonders for the communities they came from!”

Dr Mokgokong added: “Our bursary programme ensures that recipients have the best possible chance to succeed as young professionals of the future in the healthcare sector. We are also tackling the societal problem of young people finding it challenging to access higher education after completing their matric. We cannot ignore the fact that most of the youth in the country find it difficult to afford university fees, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.” 

She said the Group is delighted to play a proactive role in helping resolve the issue of access to education for young South Africans, especially young South African women. 

Thato Phahlane, one of the new bursary recipients, said the bursary has been life-changing: “This bursary offers each one of us the chance of a better life and to break the cycle of poverty. I am grateful for this opportunity. I had applied to study at various universities and was accepted at most, but unfortunately, there was no money for me to study. Thanks to AfroCentric, I am now studying towards my degree.” 

In addition to the bursary programme, the AfroCentric Group has supported the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa (CMSA) by contributing R1-million over the past five years to the development of the field of medicine and academics in South Africa. The combined support towards CMSA and the bursary recipients demonstrates our commitment to addressing the skills challenges facing the healthcare sector in the country.  

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