Wits University and Reckitt, home to some of the world’s most popular health, hygiene and nutrition brands, have agreed a three-year talent and transformation initiative to provide greater college access for black pupils, who are often excluded from a university education due to funding criteria.

While Wits University has made significant progress towards the financial sustainability of students from families earning less than R350 000 per annum (approximately $25,000), much work remains to be done to support ‘missing middle’ students who fall outside of the funding threshold.  As a result, there are currently approximately 250 000 young black South Africans who have gained admission to university but lack funds to progress, coming from families whose income is above the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) threshold for state funding to poor families. This is according to the Ikusasa Student Financial Aid Programme (ISFAP). At Wits, the estimate is that about 60% of the average annual intake of 38 000 undergraduate and postgraduate students fall into this ‘missing middle’ category.

Without adequate funding, over 8.2 million youth in South Africa are categorised as Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET). This represents a major loss of talent to society and the economy, as well as a personal tragedy for South African youth.

Reckitt’s partnership with Wits aims to identify high potential young black leaders for development into senior management positions across the continent. Each year Reckitt will provide full funding (living and study costs) for seven disadvantaged black students to complete their three-year Bachelors of Commerce degrees.

The company will also provide Reckitt mentors for the students and access to its graduate programme at the end of the course.

An informal signing ceremony between the two parties was held at Wits Business School (WBS) to officially launch the partnership. Attendees included: Russell Taylor, Regional Director Africa from Reckitt Healthcare; Maurice Radebe, Head of School at WBS; Logan Rangasamy, Academic Director at WBS and Bheki Moyo, Director of WBS’s Centre on African Philanthropy and Social Investment (CAPSI).

Maurice Radebe said, “On behalf of Wits, we would like to thank Reckitt for choosing Wits University as a talent and transformation partner. Through this sponsorship, Reckitt will be channelling its “Access” investments over the next three years to disadvantaged students and support them in the best possible learning trajectory for life-time success.”

Russell Taylor added, “This partnership is extremely important to us. In order to be a good business, we need to be a positive force in society as well and play a role in the transformation of local communities. We look forward to partnering with Wits in the years to come and to contributing towards the development of the next generation of leaders for the continent.”

Bheki Moyo concluded, “As both organisations aim to come up with innovative solutions to tackle societal problems in their own sectors, we see this partnership as the start of more to come.”

The partnership will be used to cover full bursaries for seven Bachelor of Commerce students from historically disadvantaged demographic groups. This includes the full costs of accommodation, meals, textbooks, stipends, a laptop, as well as student support including tutorials, one-on-one consultations, toolkits for success, work readiness preparation, food, clothing, and psycho-social support.

Reckitt’s funding will also support a series of collaborations with WBS including MBA curriculum enhancement, the addition of a business challenge competition for students, and support for the WBS Careers & Coaching Area.

This new “Access to Education” strategic partnership ship builds on Reckitt’s “Aspire Higher” initiative, with CAPSI, UNAIDS (RST ESA) and Gilead that was launched in South Africa in January 2020 to change the future for young Africans through sexual health innovation.

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