Africa Foundation established the Community Leaders Education Fund (CLEF) bursary programme in South Africa in 1996, expanding to Tanzania and Kenya in 2014 and Botswana and Namibia in 2018. The mission of CLEF is to assist young people who have displayed leadership potential to acquire education and skills that would not otherwise be available to them. The specific goals of CLEF are to provide access to tertiary education, reduce unemployment levels, increase household incomes and ultimately uplift communities.
We recognise poverty is the greatest barrier to accessing an education, a situation exacerbated in rural areas where children are already marginalized by virtue of their environment and the lack of infrastructure around them. We also understand that overcoming this barrier by investing in the young aspiring individuals within communities, particularly women, is a proven way to improve the health and wealth of entire nations.
HOW DOES CLEF WORK?
The CLEF bursary targets all rural youth who have met the entry requirements for tertiary level institutions but lack the funds to take up the offer. Grade 12 students who are interested in continuing education, be it at college or university are encouraged to apply for the course of their choice, at the institution of their choice, and then to also apply to CLEF. The bursary provides support for one year and each year of the student’s study, they are expected to reapply to obtain the Bursary – in this way their progress is monitored and students not fully committed to their own success, are not automatically renewed.
The CLEF recipients will receive partial funding towards their studies and psycho-social support throughout the year to assist them in overcoming the many challenges that they will face on their journey, as all of these students will be moving away from home for the first time, to pursue their studies. CLEF students are not required to pay back any of their bursary but are required to give back in their community during their school holidays, using some skills that they have learnt. For example, a student nurse will volunteer at the local clinic during their holiday.
The success of the CLEF Programme resides in the strength of the programme’s methodology. The following procedures are closely followed:
- Students are not restricted to a particular course of study or a particular institution. Enabling them to follow their own desired interests in an environment that they think most suited them is key to empowering them in decision making and in settling into their studies more rapidly.
- Students return to their communities once a year during vacation time to perform invaluable community service activities (known as the Buyisela Programme). They complete a motivation for the community work that they wish to do, the knowledge and skills they feel able to impart, and then report to Africa Foundation on the experience. This increases their exposure to different people and environments, raising confidence levels and work-readiness skills. Importantly this also teaches the appreciation for giving back when you have been provided with an opportunity.
Africa Foundation recognises that due to the significant gap between rural education and lifestyle, and tertiary education in larger cities, bursary students require ongoing mentorship and support to all CLEF students throughout the year. This assistance ranges from advice in securing further financial aid to maintaining contact, emergency support in the case of a crisis, ongoing motivation and counselling
Students are granted bursaries on a yearly basis and are required to re-apply each year of their course. Students are closely monitored throughout the year on academic performance, adjustment to university and commitment to their studies and all of these factors are taken into consideration when they apply for bursary renewal. The student is also assisted in sourcing other funding support, such as Government grants and corporate sponsorships, so that they may not require CLEF funds throughout the duration of their course, however the mentorship element will continue for these students.
Each year the graduates are brought together to celebrate their success and workshop with CLEF Ambassadors, who are previous graduates who can share experiences and provide advice on the next steps, post university. During this time, the graduates are also enrolled on a work readiness, and CV development course, to assist in giving them the best opportunity for success in their search for work.
Since inception, CLEF has given 831 bursaries to 532 rural students. 96% of these students have completed their degree within the course’s standard timeframe. When education is not freely available, often girls are the first to be excluded from it, with a son’s education more likely to be invested in by the family. Of the 532 students over 23 years of CLEF, we remain currently in contact with 338, of which 90% are in work or continued study. We are proud that to date we have 204 female graduates who are now professionals in various fields. This is a critical success as when education is not freely available, girls are most often the first to be excluded from. These female graduates go on to be role models for other young girls in their home community.
For the last four years, Africa Foundation has received over 500 CLEF applications annually. Year on year the cost of accessing tertiary level education changes, and course by course the fees are different, however currently the average cost of one bursary for one year is $1,700.