It is the only nonprofit initiative in SA that pays historical debt for students.
Statistics from the United Nations Educational Scientific Cultural Organisation (Unesco) have revealed that only 23% of science, technology, engineering, mathematics (Stem) talent is female, which is something a South African crowdfunding startup is working toward changing.
The UN’s findings have been supported by reports that indicate that the male to female Stem graduate ratio in South Africa is as imbalanced as it is in the rest of the world, according to Feenix.
According to Leana de Beer, chief operating officer at Feenix, the aim of the organisation is to connect communities in a bid to promote a world in which debt-free education is more than just a dream.
De Beer said: “We believe that access to education should not be dependent on wealth. 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.”
Feenix is a crowdfunding platform that was borne out of the need to address the issue of access to tertiary education for all. It serves as a digital platform, where businesses and individuals are able to donate funds to students.
It is one of only two crowdfunding initiatives specialising in education and is the only nonprofit initiative in South Africa that pays historical debt for students.
Their approach is based on the concept of ubuntu, and one of the success stories demonstrating just how the idea of a collective developing the best out individuals can work is that of Ntombikayise Bhengu.
Bhengu is a qualified chemist and a master’s student in mechanical engineering at the University of Witwatersrand. The 26-year-old is the youngest of six children of a single mother who worked as a domestic worker to provide for her children.
Bhengu was initially funded by the National Student Funding Aid Scheme during her undergrad degree at the University of Cape Town. Having completed her degree, Bhengu had aspirations of furthering her studies, however, her financial background would not allow this.
This is where Feenix came to the rescue.
Bhengu explained that she came across Feenix online and logged into the website, Feenix.org, where she had to fill in the details of her undergrad degree, the university she studied at and the year of study.
As part of the registration process, she also had to write a motivational story, detailing why she needed the funding and what she planned to do after attaining the degree.
Since then Feenix has invested more than R70,000 in her master’s degree, ensuring she could live out her dreams and attain the invaluable post-graduate Stem skills required to be successful in her field.
But in the spirit of ubuntu, and Feenix, Bhengu has decided to pay it forward. She and a group of her varsity peers decided to start their own nonprofit organisation, the Mentees Ark, which offers tutoring to students from public schools.