More than 100 science and engineering university graduates and participants in petrochemicals and chemicals company Sasol’s education programmes were recognised on July 7 for successfully completing their respective degree courses from undergraduate to doctorate level.
The graduates had participated in the Sasol Inzalo Foundation (Saif) Science and Engineering Undergraduate Bursary Programme and the Science Fellowship Programme. The two programmes, run under the auspices of Saif, have seen 105 black, and predominantly female students, graduate in the past year. Of these, 70 were from the Science and Engineering Undergraduate Bursary Programme and more than 35 were from the Science Fellowship Programme.
“We are very proud of our recent graduates and the role we have been able to play in contributing to broadening the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) talent pool in South Africa. The STEM disciplines are the cornerstones of development and are vital to sustain and grow economies. This group of graduates are representative of the talent and skills we need for South Africa’s future,” said Saif chairperson Dr Yvonne Muthien, who spoke at the July celebration.
Sasol has a long tradition of contributing to and enhancing science and engineering education in South Africa. The company states that, together with a broad range of partners in government, academia and business, it has made great strides in developing this vital field of education.
“We are proud of our graduates and believe they represent the success that can be achieved through nurturing talent and collaborating with partners,” said Sasol strategy and sustainability executive VP and member of Saif board of trustees Nolitha Fakude, commenting during the July 7 event.
Saif seeks to make a significant contribution to sustainable economic growth in South Africa, by focusing on skills development, primarily in STEM education, through initiatives aligned to the National Development Plan. Since 2008, Saif has developed and funded initiatives in line with its mandate to alleviate school-to-university bottlenecks, boost the vocational skills pool and create tertiary educational opportunities in South Africa.
In order to fulfil the objective of creating tertiary educational opportunities, Saif runs three bursary programmes, namely the Science and Engineering Undergraduate Bursary Programme, the Science Fellowship Programme and the Education Fellowship Programme.
The Science and Engineering Undergraduate Bursary Programme invests in students pursuing studies and careers in STEM education. Over and above financial support, the programme offers students additional nonfinancial support, such as social support and access to Sasol’s wellness programme, including optometry if required. Since 2010, the programme has funded 510 students with a focus on women.
The Science Fellowship Programme aims to groom and graduate skilled master’s and PhD chemistry and environmental chemistry researchers to expand the pool of chemistry and environmental science researchers from previously disadvantaged backgrounds in South Africa and to build research capacity at historically disadvantaged universities. These include the University of Venda, the University of Limpopo, the University of Zululand, the University of Fort Hare, the Walter Sisulu University, the North-West University (Mafikeng campus) and the University of the Free State (QwaQwa campus). Through this programme, Sasol leverages its technical expertise by having scientists from its Group Technology function, mentor students in the programme and also hold lectures on specialised courses at the specified universities. These goals are also in line with those of the National Research Foundation and the Department of Science and Technology.
“The Saif leverages strategic partnerships to make a tangible difference to the lives of hundreds of students, while contributing to entrenching South Africa as a destination of innovation,” added Muthien.
Meanwhile, the Education Fellowship Programme offers sponsorships to master’s and PhD students to pursue full-time degrees in education, researching various fields within STEM education in South Africa. Saif works with partners from the University of Cape Town, the University of Fort Hare, the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the University of Pretoria, the University of the Western Cape and the University of the Witwatersrand. This programme is meant to grow the pool of education researchers in South Africa, in order to address the country’s specific educational needs.