TSiBA Student Lerato Bontsi Talks #FeesMustFall

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Lerato Bontsi, 19 years, from George, Western Cape

Lerato Bontsi is only 19 years, but she is already a good example of how access to tertiary education is changing lives for South African youth and how #feemustfall is really impacting the younger generation who are struggling with funding. Lerato, who grew up in George and currently lives in Bishop Lavis, is a student at the Tertiary School in Business Administration (TSiBA) and has attended both of TSiBA campuses –in Cape Town and Karatara, near Knysna. Despite her parents’ lack of education, Lerato always imagined herself educated and she badly wanted to break this trend for her family’s future.

After school Lerato was accepted to various universities, but was unable to register due to lack of finances.  When she heard she could apply for a scholarship to study business at TSiBA she jumped at the opportunity and was accepted, leaving behind many of her school friends who are now either working, have children, or sitting at home lacking financial resources to study.

When Lerato speaks about her peers she says that “I know that my level of education makes me different from others who haven’t been exposed to all the different knowledge, practical skills, leadership and self-development that I have learned at TSiBA. If youth can grasp these skills too they will be able to better manage their emotions, their fears and decision-making abilities. I feel the main challenges youth are facing today is they don’t understand that there are opportunities out there and sometimes it may be fear stopping them from going after their dreams.”

With regard to the recent higher education crisis and the #feesmustfall protests Lerato says “in my opinion I support this movement because already a lot of people are sitting at home unable to study further as they are unable to pay for fees. The proposed increase in fees is confusing to me as on the one hand the government is saying they want to adjust the economy and try making things better for all.  However, at the same time students having to pay more will further limit opportunities for those who have potential so it doesn’t make sense on how South Africa will be able to achieve change.

“I believe very much in education and if this dies then we will be facing more employment. I have been watching the news and know that in the future one of the proposed solutions is that students are saying there must be no fees at all and I don’t really agree with this because the money has to come from somewhere like higher taxes, or other citizens. Perhaps a partnership with the private sector and government could make this possible by working together to make this mutually beneficial by focusing on study programmes which are more relevant to what employers and industry really need. Also if fees are eliminated the value of education may decrease in the way that students approach education. If you don’t struggle with something you don’t value it as much.
“I think students would not have been heard and the President got involved without the protests, but things could have managed better if more news and information had been communicated by government as we feel the 0% increase for 2016 doesn’t give full the full solution. I don’t think students have to stop with protests, but they should lay low till the exams are completed, then look at future and put more thought into solutions to not further add to the education crisis.
“I do still understand about the struggle to pay fees and repay debt as this is why I couldn’t go to other universities. I realise how lucky I am to be on a scholarship to study at TSiBA, but if free education becomes a reality then I pray that higher education starts implementing teaching values and including courses that not only make you intelligent, but create character which is part of our curriculum and credit-bearing. Another big TSiBA difference is that even 12 years since being founded students do not need to pay back their scholarships, but rather to Pay it Forward in the community which is what we do. The #feesmustfall situation makes me so grateful to be studying at TSiBA as I know even in my community how study debts are affecting my brothers and sisters once they graduate.

“If my parents suddenly get millions of Rands I would choose to stay at TSiBA because I believe what is inside is more important than outside and at TSiBA I have learned to challenge myself intellectually, but also it has boosted my character in being a better person in the world. I have friends at other universities and I haven’t really seen this aspect in them even though they look impressive and confident, they lack substance without any leadership training and skills. My friends at home have been inspired by me and chosen to attend TSiBA over other universities after they were forced to sit at home after school thinking they were never going to get the opportunity to study.

Lerato continues “With the many challenges that South African youth are faced with today I’m therefore a strong supporter of youth projects and programmes aimed at empowering our youth. In our communities youth are often neglected. What makes TSiBA so unique is that it not only teaches academics, but also teaches students how to deal with life challenges and how to cope in social situations, which gives the students a competitive advantage in the job market as employers are not only looking for someone competent with numbers, they want to know that you can represent their company and interact with other people.”

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