South Africa’s University Student Dropout Rate has over the years been escalating at an alarming rate. To date it is at 60% according to SA’s Science Forum. The main cause of students dropping out of university is financial constraints.

The South African government has acknowledged that South African homes earning below R600 000 per annum need assistance in providing education for their children. This accounts to about 94% of households in South Africa. The fees available from government entities are insufficient, only covering 17% of students who are eligible for assistance.

Feenix is a crowdfunding initiative launched to fund underprivileged and deserving students, as access to education remains a major challenge for so many people who have the ability to further their studies, but lack funds. It is a platform that allows students to access fees to pay their tertiary institutions by getting donations from individuals and corporates.

The crowdfunding mechanism is aimed at tackling the state of education and its crisis in South Africa by building a trust for student fees. The initiative comes as part of a diverse strategy by Standard Bank to develop meaningful, practical and sustainable ways to help youth access quality education. The initiative removes some of their debt owed to universities and ultimately contributes to South Africa’s economic growth.

Head of Standard Bank Incubation and Feenix Interim CEO Jayshree Naidoo says the initiative is a call for everyone in society concerned about the state of education and willing to do something about it.

“Feenix is an opportunity to get involved, whether you’re a student who just wants to get through your degree, or a South African who believes that the future of the country depends on giving young people the tools they need to succeed; one of them being education.

“Feenix rose out of the shared belief that education is vital to breaking the cycle of poverty. The tertiary education funding crisis that resulted in the #Feesmustfall Movement highlighted the importance of education in the lives of South Africans and the barriers that prevent access to it. There was an enormous sense of wanting to help in whatever way possible and a frustration at the lack of channels available to provide that help.”

Feenix’s simple signup process allows students at any one of the 26 public universities in the country to register their financial needs for the current year. The platform then exposes each student profile to a variety of funding sources and links them with potential sponsors. Ordinary South Africans wishing to fund students can search for individual students on the platform and pay the whole, or a portion, of their fees.

Through Feenix it was clear that the support available to

students in need was insufficient and that ordinary South Africans and business owners wanted to play a part, but did not have an avenue to do so. Feenix distributes the responsibility of funding as widely as possible and makes the process as direct and easy as possible.

“The crowdfunding method is a practice of funding a project or venture by raising money from a large number of people. The power of crowdsourcing as a viable solution to boosting educational funding channels is taking off worldwide and we are excited to now be able to take part in this exciting journey in South Africa,” says Naidoo.

The programme has so far been a success raising over R120 000 and fully funding four students, with donations from Standard Bank’s internal staff in just two weeks of its inception, before its public launch.

The students are not chosen on merit, but on selection made by the donors and sponsors. For example, an individual would donate to a student of an institution where they have also studied at, or by looking at a student’s motivation on their profile.

“Individuals can donate an amount from R100 up to the full amount due for students’ fees. It is risk-free as the fees get paid directly to the student’s tertiary institution to make what is happening behind the scenes completely transparent,” adds Naidoo.

The programme plans to fund 3 000 students within the next three years with the support of Standard Bank through its commitment to making sure the target gets met. To date, over R1.4 million has been raised and 29 students have been fully funded. There are 759 students who have put their profiles on the platform, with funding and students increasing on a daily basis.