Thursday, 28 August 2014

Assisting parents by offering educational finance for their children during the current economic climate


The education of youth remains of paramount importance, despite changes in the economic landscape. Earlier this year the then Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, announced that 20% of the country’s budget would be allocated to education, which is a whopping R254 billion. While this represents the lion’s share of the 2014 Budget, the key is what we do with these resources.
Family budgets are taking strain and with job losses leading to further income disparities, the biggest impact is on women (often the primary or only caregivers to young children).  
 The impact of the global economic slowdown on South African education  remains multifaceted, with the gains in better education and accessibility  achieved in the past having been adversely affected . 

This means that it will probably take the country longer than expected to achieve the United Nations millennial goals and as a matter of urgency, we need to move closer to these pre-determined goals.
 School enrolment has been negatively affected due to an increase in poverty levels. If they do manage to get them there, children often go to school hungry and this has devastating impact on their cognitive abilities.

Free education would help alleviate poverty, but it is not yet an option – South Africa does not have a bottomless pit of funds to cover expenses for all. Even in Botswana, where education beyond O-levels is free, the government is reviewing what they can effectively afford to offer learners in terms of education finance. They have opted for a different approach by making university entrance stringent, thus limiting the numbers.

Eduloan, South Africa’s leading education finance provider, plays a major role by providing study finance to prospective students and their parents , thus unlocking potential to those who may not  qualify for loans from other financial institutions. To ensure that the funds borrowed are not going to waste, Eduloan makes use of direct salary deductions via the employers of the borrowers, ensuring that loans are settled according to agreement .  Study loans are transferred directly to the academic institutions, and not the students, mitigating risk to the company.

In South Africa, while we work to better our communities and the nation at large, we need to give attention to what can be done to assist our children to fare better in subjects like mathematics and science. A good understanding and insight in mathematics is crucial – it teaches pupils not just basic arithmetics, but helps them become logical thinkers and problem solvers. Recent reports clearly indicated that South Africa ranks very low in these subjects. 

Teachers can start playing a more decisive role in improving education. Ironically they are often buried under administrative tasks, therefore minimising the time spent on imparting knowledge in  subjects such as mathematics and science. Our teachers need to constantly familiarise themselves with new technology and use innovative teaching methods to motivate learners. Continuous research by teachers should be encouraged.  

Together with Open Learning Holdings (OLH), Eduloan has a whole range of solutions that provides schools the relevant tools to streamline their tasks. For example, our Principle Primary Software, whereby a school can buy an administrative system to help with all the administration required by government. We also have an agreement with D6 Communicator who have a programme,whereby teachers and schools can communicate with parents via the internet regarding sports practice times, exam rosters and requirements for academic progress.
The reality is that some schools just cannot afford to acquire such solutions.
There are three more areas we need to focus on in terms of improving the situation.
The first is to make sure that governments actually spend the allocated funds on improving education for our children. 

Secondly, we need to look at partnerships with the developed world, where people can still provide support in terms of aid or grants for those economies that are really poor.
The third aspect is for private sector institutions, such as Eduloan, to come up with programmes that will educate people on financial literacy, and secondly to provide innovative products to assist an increasing number of South Africans.
Eduloan is a catalyst for changing lives through education and has, since 1996, provided access to education finance to more than 720,000 South Africans with more than R3,7 billion worth in study loans. Eduloan caters for all levels of tuition and pioneered a bursary fund management product called Eduxtras, to further assist students and bursars alike in effectively budgeting and controlling spend on essential study requirements, including tuition fees, books, accommodation and food.

By Totsie Memela, CEO: Eduloan

Eduloan encourages a culture of financial discipline with Eduxtras By David Scholtz, Chief Financial Officer at Eduloan

What your parents taught you about money and how they handled their finances has a direct bearing on how you, as a student, manage your study bursary or loan. It all boils down to your financial education and learning by example.
Most people are rather uninformed about personal finance, and this shows not only in their own finances, but also in how their children manage money. This does not mean that all students are inexperienced in handling their finances, but a considerable number of them do need guidance to make their bursaries or loans last through the year.

Eduloan views itself as a responsible company that would like to help as many students as possible in furthering their careers. As one of South Africa’s foremost providers of study finance, we want to do much more than simply give students access to funds. We want to encourage a culture of financial discipline, to make sure students use the funds available to them responsibly. Eduloan aims to be a catalyst, an enabler that takes students from their present situation to becoming responsible and contributing South Africans.
 We found that students were spending too much money on entertainment and personal luxuries that had nothing to do with their studies. Long before the end of the academic year, these students were presented with a shock: their funds were depleted!
This is where Eduloan’s Eduxtras product plays an important role. In essence it is a budgeting system whereby the bursar can determine and allocate funds for a specific item, called spending pockets - like meals, accommodation, books, and even cash.

Secondly, Eduxtras helps control spending on essentials. We implemented processes that prevent students from spending their bursaries or loans on, for instance, cigarettes or alcohol.
Used to a limited amount of pocket money, or in some cases no money for personal use at all, students are granted a loan of, say, R25 000 in their first year of study. Too many students, and in particular those from a poor background, this is an incredible amount of money that will, in their minds, last forever.

The most important aspect about Eduxtras is that students are taught how to budget and are left with a clear picture of where they stand financially in any given academic year, knowing exactly what they can spend on and what not. It is a tool that teaches the students at an early age how to work with money and make it last for the period it was intended for.  We force students to stick to their budget, at the same time inculcating in them a sense of responsible money management.
We have developed a financial education booklet that we hand out to students to help them understand money matters. When activation of their Eduxstras card takes place, Eduloan representatives are there to explain the finer details about security and using the card.  It works very much like a bank debit card. The student can use the card to pay but the system can also facilitate payment by using cell phone technology with the same pocket technology.

The student and the bursar can draw a real-time report on the spending done. Whenever a transaction happens, they can see that their account is debited and how much money is left for future purchases. In cases where the full amount in a specific spending pocket, for example books, is not used up, the bursar is refunded that amount by the end of the year.
Eduxstras is a scalable, workable solution that helps the student reach his or her academic goals and assures the bursar that the money granted is spent well. The system gives bursars access to a full report of what the student is spending money on, which allows the bursars to adjust the spending pockets for, accommodation or meals, should they feel that these are not sufficient. 
Over time, students learn to understand their spending patterns. Later on, when they have graduated and are not part of the Eduxtras system any longer, we hope that responsible budgeting and prioritising expenses will have become second nature.

Eduloan’s aim is to see more financially balanced students, who understand that a financial buffer needs to be built to protect them against unexpected expenses, understand the difference between good and bad debt, and who can manage the funds available to their advantage.