The University of Johannesburg's (UJ) Vice-Chancellor, Prof Tshilidzi Marwala was part of a panel for the Get Me To Graduation (GMTG) event held on the 1 February 2018 at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, an initiative that raises funds to feed the thousands of tertiary students who go to class hungry every day.
Prof Marwala discussed the university's perspective on why hunger on campus is increasing as well as what he imagines as the ideal university experience for all students.
''Democratisation of education means children of poor and working class are now getting to university, but hunger often results in low graduation levels. Get Me To Graduation is a solidarity plan to fix this,'' said Prof Marwala.
''It is hard to study in SA, with high student to professor ratios, large class sizes, over-crowding, etc. We need to invest in education. South Africa needs more universities. Education can be made cheaper by using online learning, remote tutoring or robotics,'' he added.
More than 72% of the world's food insecure people live in Africa, and the hunger these individuals experience on a daily basis is severely limiting their ability to use education to improve their futures.
This is according to a 2017 report by both the International Food Policy Research Institute, which found that Africa tops the Global Hunger Index; and in addition to many other consequences of this food insecurity, one of the key impacts of hunger is the limitation it places on students' ability to concentrate and learn. This, in turn, is contributing to the unacceptably high dropout rates currently seen at many universities across the continent.
Get Me To Graduation (GMTG) – is a non-profit organisation that has been helping students to fund their subsistence needs, with a R1000 monthly food stipend, since it was established in 2016.
Other panellists from the event included:
- Tumelo Alfeumphunga, a UJ student
- Refilwe Maluleke, the Managing Director of Yellowwood.
- Dr Thabi Leoka, an Economist who has worked for various organisations in the financial sector.
- MC Andile Khumalo, the Managing Director of POWER 98.7 and COO of MSG Afrika.
UJ student Tumelo Alfeumphunga who was raised by his mother, a domestic worker, saw his average academic performance improve from 71% - 86%, since receiving the GMTG support in 2016. Since getting on GMTG he has won the Best Business Law 1 student and the Ujenius Award (the UJ award for academic excellence) for 2 consecutive years.
Says, Tumelo Alfeumphunga, ''I have a burning desire to graduate and contribute to my home.''
Nedbank and GMTG are calling on South African organisations and individuals to help extend the benefits of food security to all students in South Africa by 'pledging a plate' to get a student to graduation.