The Stellenbosch University Law Clinic's Financial Literacy Project (FLP) seeks to empower local communities by sharing knowledge about financial matters and informing people about their rights as consumers.
This entails teaching farmworkers and high school learners basic financial literacy skills – for example, how to prepare a budget, why a savings plan is important, and the difference between good debt and bad debt.
The long-term goal is to strive towards sustainable social change and to provide a way for these members of society to migrate out of poverty.
Through collaborative relationships fostered between the Faculty of Law, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, SU Language Centre, the offices of the National Credit Regulator and Western Cape Consumer Protector, the Department of Social Development and finally, the SU Law Clinic, the project aims to achieve what is ultimately a shared goal – to educate, broaden access to justice, uplift and support.
The Law Clinic provides professional legal advice and representation in civil matters to members of the community who qualify for legal aid, and according to the FLP's project manager, Mrs Susann Louw, the FLP was envisaged when legal professionals at the Law Clinic noticed that many of their walk-in clients experience financial difficulties.
“They thought it might be useful to create an initiative that informs and educates people before their financial situation becomes negative," she explains.
The FLP offers an opportunity to combine service learning and community engagement and serves both the student volunteers and the greater community. Law of Civil Procedure 371 and Financial Planning 378 students volunteer to act as presenters at empowerment workshops.
Before they start, the prospective presenters attend three training sessions. The first is with the National Credit Regulator and the Office of the Western Cape Consumer Protector. This enables them to inform people about their rights as consumers and useful tools such as the National Credit Act.
The second is a session about presentation skills offered by the Language Centre.
“The students learn how to adapt their presentations to their audience, and how to convey information to people who might be older or younger than they are, or come from different backgrounds," explains Mrs Louw.
In their third session they share their planned presentation with Mrs Louw. The students and Mrs Louw then discuss possible examples that can be used to share the presenters' message and knowledge with their audience in a way that will make sense to the listener.
The students hope to convey, among other things, an understanding of personal financial issues and the tools to address these issues, as well as an understanding of consumer rights and credit regulations. The Law Clinic also provides access to justice when issues are of such a nature that legal assistance is required.
In 2019, the students presented workshops at 10 farms and four schools in the Stellenbosch area. A recent requirement is that all students should present at a school as well as a farm. This gives them exposure to more than one audience.
In 2020, Mrs Louw hopes to include even more students and expand the project's footprint.
“We aim to visit and support new communities each year and see opportunities for expansion into urban settings. Furthermore, we are placing strong emphasis on the development of training material that can be used to conduct the training, taking into account audiences' literacy levels and language preferences," says Mrs Louw.
A booklet with tips and advice is being designed, and will be available in Afrikaans, English and Xhosa.