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By Holly Mellin

Stellenbosch University (SU) ­recently provided first-year ­student Kimberley Lucas with a full bursary after the National ­Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) rejected her application. Due to a lack of funds, this left her with no university opportunities, despite her having achieved 99% for mathematics at the end of her matric year. This was announced in an SU press release by Sandra Mulder on 1 March.

Lucas elected to study BCom (Actuarial Science) this year and said, “Since I enjoy doing maths, I figured it’s best to study for a career that is heavily based on it, and actuarial science seemed like the most interesting career in that field.”

Prof Johnathan Jansen, a ­distinguished professor in the ­Faculty of Education at SU, explained that “there was a long chain of people who made her coming to Maties possible”.

After being contacted by Lucas’s high school mathematics teacher, Beverley Hargreaves, and ­principal, Jansen spoke to the university about her situation. Prof Nico Koopman (deputy vice-chancellor: social impact, transformation & personnel) then offered her a full bursary, and Prof Ingrid Woolard (Dean of the ­Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences) ­subsequently opened admissions for her.

“More than 20 people gave everything from money to clothes and even an internship,” Jansen said. 

“It takes a village,” he continued. “I was just another link in the chain.”

Jansen, who comes from a working-class family from the Cape Flats, explained that his own background motivates him to seek out students like Lucas to help.

“I know I would not have been in this position today if there [had not been] a chain of people from the family [and] church, and others, who gave me a step up along a difficult path,” he said. 

“I am simply paying back what I received.”

Considering her earlier funding rejection, Lucas said, “I was extremely surprised, since it all happened so quickly. When I spoke to Professor Jansen, he phoned me back within two days telling me about the bursary.”

NEW HOME Kimberley Lucas welcomes Die Matie to her Nemesia residence. Photo: Leigh-Anne Cundill

According to Martin Viljoen, SU Media Manager, Lucas was still able to submit an application under SU’s policy on late applications instated three years ago. “Late applications are considered in cases where there are well-motivated reasons why an academically strong student was unable to apply on time and where the student helps the university to meet its strategic objectives of excellence, equity and redress,” said Viljoen.

He explained that when Jansen brought the situation to their attention, the faculty of Economic and Management Sciences immediately processed Lucas’s application according to this policy. According to Viljoen, the faculty was also able to hand out 33 recruitment bursaries this year to top-performing South African students who identify as African, Coloured, Indian or Asian and who come from a socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

“Some students to whom the faculty had awarded recruitment bursaries elected not to take up their places in the faculty in 2022. The faculty was thus able to award an additional set of recruitment bursaries in early February,” said Viljoen. 

He explained that the faculty prioritised top-performing students who had accepted their final offer and had come from circumstances of socio-economic disadvantage. “Ms Lucas was one of the candidates selected in the final allocation round; she met all the academic and all the other requirements for a recruitment bursary,” said Viljoen. 

“The faculty is delighted that this brilliant young woman was awarded this opportunity to study at SU.”  

As well as having her tuition paid for, Lucas was admitted to Nemesia Residence and has had all her meals and accommodation paid for. “Being able to attend university allows me to see that all of my hard work was not a waste. It’s almost like a reward to me,” Lucas said. 

She added that she has “always had a love for learning and, for the most part, always enjoyed studying—especially mathematics.” 

This mindset motivated her to continue to work hard, no matter how trying her circumstances have been, and led her to earn four distinctions in her matric year.

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