Francois Pienaar makes a difference in education


As schools settle into the 2019 academic year, a pertinent question that could be asked is whether scholars get educated in a way that prepares them for a viable future.

A further question should be whether each of those students will be adequately prepared to be self-sufficient individuals with a social conscience.

A sterling example of a robust partnership aimed at providing affirmative answers to these questions, is the collaboration between Make a Difference Leadership Foundation (MAD Leadership Foundation) and the construction industry’s Federated Employers Mutual Assurance Company (FEM), through the FEM Education Foundation (FEMEF).

MAD Leadership Foundation, based in Cape Town, was started in 2003 when Francois Pienaar, former Springbok captain of the 1995 Rugby World Cup-winning team, and a group of friends agreed that South Africa needs a next generation of leaders who had the opportunity to receive a good education, who were mentored, and whose leadership is based on a solid foundation of values and beliefs.

They were then prompted into action by the tagline “The leaders of tomorrow need our leadership today” and started a comprehensive scholarship programme that not only funds education, but provides support and development opportunities for young people with leadership potential.

Pienaar, who is the Chairman of MAD Leadership Foundation, now captains an organisation that has made a tangible difference in the lives of over 200 young people and their families, over the past 15 years.

Results speak for themselves

A track record of a 100% matric pass rate from inception is evidence that MAD Leadership Foundation is cultivating a contingent of highly competent individuals, who will form the building blocks of a high-functioning society. Since 2003, 135 scholars have matriculated through its programme, with 123 attaining Bachelor passes.

Overall, 37 A-aggregates have been achieved with a total of 309 subject distinctions, from 89 scholars. The organisation also has 53 fellows who have graduated with over 80 tertiary qualifications.

This impressive track record saw MAD Leadership Foundation earning an initial R49 million slice of the FEMEF R720 million education fund in 2016, which has since been increased with each cohort intake on an annual basis.

It costs about R100 000 per year to arm a learner with a quality education

The projected average cost per high school learner for 2019 is close to R100 000, according to MAD Leadership Foundation.

This amount includes tuition plus costs such as stationery, textbooks, uniforms, extramural activities, boarding and transport. There are additional costs for support programmes that the organisation offers to the learners.

FEMEF is currently supporting 100 scholars on the programme and has committed to a further intake of 35 in 2020. Just a cursory calculation of the numbers involved generates an appreciation of this high calibre partnership.

Mpumelelo, one of the 2018 matriculants, who is part of the cohort supported by FEMEF, says that MAD Leadership Foundation came at a time in her life when she thought all hope was lost.

She was afraid that she was not going to go to university or even make it to her Matric year because of circumstances at home.

2019 is her third year in the programme and she is about to begin her first year in one of South Africa’s top universities, the University of Cape Town.

Attending the Annual Leadership Summit and Regional Forums provided her with the chance to develop her leadership skills so that she can become one of South Africa’s future leaders. The programme has changed my life.

“We challenge and encourage other corporates to step forward as FEM has done”

Pienaar, points out that, “This partnership entrenches what we aim to achieve and builds on what we have been working towards, which is to develop long-standing, mutually beneficial partnerships with corporates that share our values and goals.

“This allows us to create sustainable educational opportunities for young people with leadership potential but who do not have the financial resources to afford a good education. The collaboration presents us with an opportunity to expand our reach so that we can identify, develop and support even more deserving young leaders, year-on-year.

“We challenge and encourage corporates from other industries to step forward, as FEM has done, and invest in education and ultimately help to grow industry through a new generation of leaders.’’

 “The FEMEF scholarship programme enables us to broaden our impact”

Of the company’s vested interest in education, CEO of FEM, Ndivhuwo Manyonga says, “We are committed to playing our part in addressing the challenges around education in South Africa. We have been successful in funding scholars in construction related qualifications through our FEM bursary scheme.

“The FEMEF scholarship programme enables us to broaden our impact and assist even more scholars. We believe that access to good education and mentorship for these bright scholars will provide them with a better future and will enable them to contribute positively towards changing the fortunes of their families, communities and South Africa.

“We are proud of our partnership with the MAD Leadership Foundation, who share the same vision around education and leadership.”

Revisiting our two questions posed, it becomes apparent that a proactive partnership between the public, private and civil society sectors is the only way to ensure a more fruitful and sustainable impact in the educational space.

Ideally, if corporations in each industry invest in the education of learners who aspire to work in those sectors, inevitably the futures of both those students and the sectors would be sustainable. FEMEF has the foresight to invest in this mutually-beneficial future.

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