MANY students are forced to drop out of university due to financial challenges, but none so tragic as those who complete 75% of their qualification with just a year to go, and have to cut short their educational dream.

We want to try to reverse this for some, through a novel fundraising initiative.

NMMU wants to help 160 of its students, as part of a bigger ongoing fundraising initiative by the University, to finish the journey and complete their qualifications by raising R4 million through the Vice-Chancellor’s #Trailblazing campaign.

NMMU Vice-Chancellor Prof Derrick Swartz, NMMU Chancellor Santie Botha, entrepreneur and businesswoman Dr Bridgette Gasa and 20 others will be pooling their resources and inspiring their own networks to dig deep into their pockets to become part of the solution towards financing these particular students.

The team will be tackling the four-day Inca trail to Machu Picchu in South America from 1 to 4 September, symbolically raising R1m for each day, as was shared at the launch of the fundraising initiative on 15 June, on the eve of national Youth Day.

According to Higher Education figures, more than 47% of students who start out in institutions of higher learning fail to graduate for various reasons, but often because of a shortage of money. Sadly, this figure includes thousands who fall at the last hurdle – their final year – and who, instead of going on to graduate, often join the ranks of 3 million youths who are neither working nor studying.

NMMU wants to reverse this for at least 160 of its academically-deserving students.

“My view is that no society, no civilisation has ever been successfully built without present generations investing in the education of future generations. As South Africans we must find ways of augmenting our universities’ pressurised resources.

“My climb is part of this, and every single donation, from a few rand to more, is extremely important because it is about creating a strong culture of giving together for education, and coming together to create a more just and equal society,” said Prof Swartz.

Prof Swartz has been granted “special leave” to devote time and energy, among other matters,   towards ensuring the financial viability and sustainability of the university, including that of raising funds for those students who are academically deserving, but financially challenged.

While student numbers within higher education continue to rise – from 480 000 in 1995 to almost one million today – government subsidies have not. At NMMU, the number of students has risen from 26 300 in 2015 to 26 911 this year, but the financial support has not risen proportionately.

The #FeesMustFall movement highlighted the challenges facing tertiary education, not least the financial challenges facing so many poor and middle-class students.

NMMU knows it cannot rely on government to meet its needs, particularly in the present fiscal and economic climate, but is instead focusing on ways of re-creating and re-engineering its own modes of operation to make better use of its resources in meeting student needs. This includes an ongoing drive to raise funding for students.