Project Zero, a Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences initiative to help students complete their studies without financial worries or student debt yielded a fruitful crop, with 17 beneficiaries having graduated in 2019. This number is a marked increase from the five beneficiaries who graduated in 2018.
Launched by the faculty in 2015 to reduce to zero the actual cost of studying at Stellenbosch University (SU) for talented students, Project Zero bursaries cover the beneficiaries' tuition, accommodation and living expenses. The bursaries are granted based on academic merit and about 50% of the recipients come from resource-poor backgrounds.
In 2017, the Banking Sector Education and Training Authority (Bank SETA) – who then funded approximately 50% of the Project Zero students – became a major contributor to the initiative. Last year, all of the 55 first-year, non-final-year and final-year Project Zero students were funded by the Bank SETA.
Liam Cloete, a 2016 beneficiary who recently obtained a BCom (Actuarial Science) degree, said receiving the bursary freed him up to take advantage of the environment and opportunities available at SU.
“I immersed myself in my residence, Eendrag, and its people, even doing acapella for three years. I was eventually privileged enough to join the House Committee and served as Primarius in my final year.
“I also developed a leadership short course which was accredited at SU. The course aims to enhance personal leadership and management skills and we even introduced it to a new high school in Stellenbosch called Calling Education."
However, it was not all plain sailing for the Johannesburg-born youngster, since he had to repeat his third year in 2019.
“I was sure I would lose my bursary, but the faculty decided to grant it for another year to allow me to complete my degree. For that, I am truly grateful."
He paused, collecting himself. “But positive things can come from failure. I learned how to deal with failure, and that success and failure are not mutually exclusive. After a while, I also learned how to deal with my emotions and to cope. Coming from high school, I had no idea how easy it is to fail, and how difficult it is to succeed."
He aims to pursue an honours degree in 2020 and, beyond that, one day when he is financially stable, to sow back into this initiative that gave him so much.
Fellow 2016 Project Zero beneficiary, Kamir Arjun, graduated with a BAcc (Accountancy) degree cum laude in 2018.
“Because of your faith in my ability, I am able to begin my working life without owing a cent of student debt!" Arjun said to the faculty. "This is such a relief. I can honestly feel a huge burden lifted off my shoulders."
He said being granted the Project Zero bursary allowed him the freedom to live a balanced lifestyle.
“I was able to balance the demands of sports training, networking events, furthering my skill set, working as a private tutor and a residence mentor and my studies.
“Going forward, I aim to become a professional triathlete, compete in a 100-mile race, study for a master's in tax and obtain an MBA from Harvard Business School before I am 30. I now know that I can achieve anything that I set my mind to. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to dream big and to further myself."
Ahmed Dada, former Matie and Project Zero beneficiary, said the bursary gave him the security he needed during a very difficult time in his life.
“University is extremely stressful on its own. When you add into the mix personal factors such as my parents getting divorced, it can reach an intolerable point. This is where Project Zero came in. It gave me the assurance of knowing that I would be able to complete my degree at the best university in Africa no matter what happened. Thank you for offering me the greatest opportunity and privilege of my life."
He aims to give back to future students what SU gave to him through the Project Zero initiative.
- Main photo: Project Zero students of 2019.
- Photo on the right: Liam Cloete
- To contribute to the Project Zero initiative, contact the Faculty Manager, MJ Brooks, at 021 808 2078 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.