Who has Access?

Yesterday Good Work Foundation (GWF) released a video celebrating young people graduating on our rural campus in Hazyview, Mpumalanga. This was a video that had been scheduled for a number of days, but as fate would have it, was automatically released in the middle of one of South Africa’s most important weeks, in which students across the country are protesting against university fee increases.

Were we right to release the video in this time of student unrest? The answer is “yes.”

Here is some background: In response to the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg announcing a 10 percent fee increase in 2016, a group of students at that university formed a protest movement, and this wave of discontent has escalated, spreading to most major South African universities and culminating in the storming of parliament in Cape Town on Wednesday. This 10 percent increase must be seen in the context of an existing fee and bursary structure that is both inaccessible and unrealistic for many young South Africans.

As an active participant in student politics in the 1980s, when a new generation of South Africans was standing up for the rights of ALL people in South Africa, GWF CEO, Kate Groch, is no stranger to protests on university campuses. We, at GWF, acknowledge that our country has taken major steps forward since then, but the reality is that South Africa’s “elephant in the room” is inequality. There is no escaping that fact.

The only way that wealth can be shared; the only way that we can reduce a skills gap; the only way that we can address one of the world’s most apparent inequality challenges is through ACCESS TO EDUCATION. Excluding our bright, young people who want to participate in the world is simply no longer an option. As we always say with truth and conviction – it should never matter where a person is born, he or she must be given the opportunity to reach for the stars. We know that our friends in South Africa and around the world believe in this principle as much as we do, and we know that that is one of the reasons why our students are proud to step onto their campus everyday.

Today, we stand in solidarity with what aspiring students across the country are trying to bring urgent attention to. With our GWF rural campuses, we have created a model that is almost entirely subsidised by private organisations and individuals who believe in an education revolution. The process of achieving affordable education is our biggest challenge at GWF. There is not a day that goes by that our fundraising team is not challenged by the word “sustainability” and many people have said: “Increase your revenue streams. Charge more, your lives will be made easier.”

The answer to that is “no.” We believe in a world where access to education and information is not dependent on where you come from or how much you earn. And it will continue to be our mission to grow a tribe of like-minded people who believe in that, no matter how difficult it is to achieve.

Were we right to release our graduation video? Yes. It is a celebration of the fact that access to excellent education no matter where you are from is possible for everyone. When we think outside the box, when we use technology, when we build alliances with abundant people from around the world, we can do it.

Thank you to all of our partners – many of them South African corporates who do not have to do as much as they do – for helping us create a solution. We will continue to challenge the “how” and “what” of education, but most important, we will continue to challenge “who” has access to education. That is the very core of our purpose, our mission and our vision.

"our mission is to look up, and go forward and never look back at the things that will never help us shape our future." says the newly GWF capped graduates.

Good Work Foundation students graduate at the Hazyview Digital Learning Campus on October 16, 2015