Avanade's 15 for 15 Scholarship Programme: creating possibilities for five UP students
11 May 2016
Avanade's recent announcement of the local beneficiaries of its 15 for 15 Scholarship Programme sees the company partner with the University of Pretoria (UP) to support five female students in their tertiary studies. Geared specifically towards promoting enrolment in degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), the programme is being implemented across the globe to tackle some of the challenges women face in qualifying for and completing their studies.
Since access to tertiary education remains a challenge in our country, Avanade's 15 for 15 Scholarship Programme will have a significant impact on the lives of the five UP recipients of scholarships: Oratile Mokoto, Lerato Tlokane, Sharné Annette Werner, Nicolle Bernelee Abrahams and Nikita Christina dos Santos de Franca.
The programme aims to keep female students enrolled in institutions with strong STEM programmes. It is the flagship initiative of Avanade's new corporate citizenship programme, which aims to close gender-based gaps in technology and income. Speaking at Friday's scholarship announcement event at UP, John Tadman, country manager of Avanade South Africa, emphasised the company's commitment to contributing to the communities in which it operates. 'Since Avanade's vision is to be the leading digital innovator, we are proud that we can play a role in enhancing lives by providing skills and technology to women so that they may drive innovation with passion and purpose,' he said.
The 15 for 15 Scholarship Programme is expected to benefit at least 45 students globally over the next five years, with the first 15 beneficiaries having been selected from UP, University College London, and California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, USA. The inaugural beneficiaries of the scholarship were chosen based on several criteria, which emphasised the need to assist female applicants to complete their university education.
'We are very honoured to be the first African university chosen to partner with Avanade's 15 for 15 Scholarship Programme,' said Professor Cheryl de la Rey, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UP. 'The University of Pretoria actively promotes STEM-related programmes among female students. We are therefore extremely encouraged by the high level of involvement that Avanade will be investing in our students in terms of the internship and mentoring aspects of the programme. We wish each one of these students well in their studies and are committed to supporting them as much as we can.'
While registering for and completing of STEM-related qualifications is imperative in driving the country's future growth and development, research by Higher Education SA (HESA)1, a Section 21 company that represents all 23 public universities and technikons in South Africa, shows that STEM-related drop-out rates escalated significantly in recent years. 'At certain institutions, STEM drop-out rates are currently as high as 35%, with the bulk of those deregistering doing so in their first year of study,' notes Tadman. 'In South Africa, one of the main reasons cited for dropping out is financial constraints – students enrol but lack the funding to see them through. Other factors include a lack of academic preparedness and students not receiving appropriate support from universities and/or their families. Female students are often more acutely affected by these factors.'
Avanade's partnership with UP is structured to overcome the barriers faced by South African women in completing their university education. 'As partners in the project, Avanade will work with UP to provide our five South African scholarship beneficiaries with financial support and mentoring, and to give them access to the university's alumni network. In addition, we shall offer them internships and the opportunity to gain work experience at the company, equipping them to embark on fulfilling careers,' concludes Tadman.
 According to research cited on eNCA and Moneyweb, available at https://www.enca.com/south-africa/student-dropout-rate-high and http://www.moneyweb.co.za/archive/south-africas-high-university-dropout-rates/.
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From left to right: Sharné Annette Werner, Nicolle Bernelee Abrahams, Nikita Christina dos Santos de Franca, Oratile Mokoto and Lerato Tlokane