AfriForum Youth raises concerns with NRF over race discrimination

Organisations establish a channel through which students who believe they are affected can raise their concerns (May 7)

AfriForum Youth establishes complaints channel with NRF

AfriForum Youth today met with senior management of the National Research Foundation, a statutory research body responsible for funding more than 8000 postgraduate students, to establish a channel to be used by students who are of the opinion that they are the victims of racial discrimination when being denied bursaries.

The NRF conceded that the dignity of minorities should be protected and that policy based on race should be phased out in future, as far as this is possible within the framework of governmental stipulations," said Charl Oberholzer, National Chairperson of AfriForum Youth.

According to Oberholzer the meeting agreed that governmental targets which measure output in terms of race remain the biggest obstacle to a truly non-racial process for awarding bursaries. "Funding was also identified as an obstacle. With more funds, every person will have the ability to embark on postgraduate studies. Currently 7 from 10 applicants are denied bursaries by die NRF due to a shortage of funds," Oberholzer said.

AfriForum Youth pointed out that race should not be used to determine to what extent an individual qualifies for empowerment, as a poor white student should be as entitled to empowerment programmes and bursaries as black students.

"This was a constructive meeting and both parties discussed the complexity of representation and redressing policies. We should not be hogtied by die solutions offered by the ANC. It is possible to propose solutions that are to the benefit of all South Africans. AfriForum Youth and the NRF agreed that education and training are the most important factors in South Africa's future," Oberholzer said.

The meeting was requested by AfriForum Youth after various complaints were received from students regarding requirements by the NRF for certain bursary programmes. White students must, for example, complete their degrees within the prescribed times, while students of colour may take longer to complete their degrees and still qualify for bursaries. Certain criteria also indicate that 85% of students must be black and that priority will be given in every instance to a student from a designated group. The NRF points out, however, that they maintain strict goals and that excellence is not negotiable.

A delegation from AfriForum Youth met with Dr Van Jaarsveld, CEO of the NRF, Dr Pillay, the Deputy CEO, Dr. Nthambeleni, Executive Director of Bursaries and Management Systems and Mr Mahlangu, Corporate Legal Representative for the NRF.

The NRF intends to fund more than 4500 black students in 2013 for postgraduate studies, and currently spends more than R1.8 billion on bursaries. The NRF also aims to support five times this number by 2020 in order to ensure that South Africa remains competitive in a globalizing world.

Statement issued by Charl Oberholzer, National Chairperson, AfriForum Youth, May 8 2013

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