HOW IT ALL BEGAN

During the late 1960s, apartheid crippled black schooling, especially in the Western Cape where restrictions were so severe that these children usually sought their education in the old mission colleges of the Eastern Cape. At that time every race group had a separate school syllabus with its own text books and set-books.

During years of the worst apartheid, volunteers worked together in a private house. School protests in 1976 resulted in heavy-handed police tactics and widespread arrests which affected all our scholars for nearly 15 years. Some were arrested, some were tortured, many fled the country. On 27 April 1994, the day of South Africa’s first election, the organization moved to rented premises and developed into an establishment with paid office staff and an efficient computer environment.

Though independent of the State, the ASF supports learners in the State education system and is the natural receiver of first-hand information about conditions in the schools and colleges. Contact with the Education Departments has been maintained irrespective of the government in power. To date, no financial assistance from the government has ever been received and The Fund relies entirely on private donations. Although most beneficiaries are from marginalised communities and enrolled at under-resourced schools, no racial distinction is made in giving the awards.

Our whole intention is focused on the learner, for their care and their benefit. There is no other fund quite like this. Other organizations focus on putting our youth through tertiary education, but this is not possible unless there is a supply of capable students to start with! No student reaches university without first going to school. No artisan begins training at an FET college without having first gone to school. In fact, there would be no students at the tertiary level unless they had successfully completed high school. This is what makes the organization so unique. It is an invaluable service that the ASF renders – we assist, guide, mentor and motivate our youth towards taking responsibility for their schooling and in being better prepared for their further education.

WHAT WE DO

The fund works with about 350 schools every year – schools which are often lacking in resources and funding.  About half of our learners, taken from these under-resourced circumstances, will succeed at tertiary level. The other half will go into skills training, most of them through TVET (Technical Vocational Education and Training) Colleges.  In spite of hunger, illness, abuse and all the horrors of poverty, these learners respond like sunflowers to the sun, opening up, learning to trust and sharing their problems, listening to advice and becoming hopeful, seeing beyond their world of shacks or isolated villages and imagining a world beyond.  Personal contact with our learners and the staff who teach them are invaluable and give us some idea of the conditions of the schools where they are enrolled.  Our volunteers include a network of Bursary Representatives at every school, who assist in identifying learners who would most benefit from our programme.  Learners do not automatically remain on the programme and have to re-apply every year, thus encouraging them to take personal responsibility for their continued tenure with the ASF.

The ASF brings to the bursars on the programme:

  • The Bursaries – alleviates the added financial pressure on families in providing the learner with basic school needs.
  • The handwritten communication and Life Skills Sessions – motivates the learner and encourages personal development, resulting in a more focussed and committed learner.
  • The Grade 9 Subject Choices Advice Booklet – guides the learner to make informed decisions on subject choices & its impact on their choice of careers; highlights the difference in completing the FET phase at school or at college level and introduces an understanding on career options.
  • The Grade 11 Career Guidance Workbook – presents the learner with a year-long interactive process of self-identification and the career field to which they are most suited. The learner, now being clear on their post-matric plans, can bring more focus to their final year at school.
  • The Grade 12 One Year Computer Literacy Programme – equips the learner with the skills to better navigate and succeed at institutions of higher learning or should they venture immediately into the world of work.
  • The NSFAS Online Application Guide – this simplistic, step-by-step and user-friendly guide enables the learner (whether computer literate or not) to navigate the NSFAS website and successfully complete their online application for tertiary funding.

Every Corporate Partner or Trust bring their own wonderfully unique support to the learners they fund.  You are invited to visit the ASF Youtube Channel to get  an overview of how we engage, and encouraging insight into some of these amazing partnerships.

The Fund received the Education Africa award in 1997 and 1998 and the Ithemba (Hope) Award in 1997. The work has been honoured by Rotary Clubs and the Lions.