Yesterday, Huawei South Africa handed over bursaries to a select group of postgraduate ICT students from The University of the Witwatersrand as part of its efforts to bolster and support technology skills growth in South Africa.
The Wits bursaries are part of a wider programme which will see Huawei supporting 48 students from 5 Universities — UKZN, UP, Wits, UCT, and UWC — with bursaries worth R7-million this year. The programme also recognises that there is a shortage of skilled ICT professionals in South Africa and that corporates have a role to play in boosting those numbers.
Growing local talent
“South Africa has no shortage of young, talented people capable of being groomed into world-class technology professionals,” says Daniel Jiang, Human Resources Development, Huawei. “Too often, however, they simply aren’t given the necessary opportunities. At Huawei, we recognise that corporates can make important contributions in reversing that situation.”
While Huawei stands to benefit from the programme, in that it will have a wider pool of candidates, its programme goes beyond that, focused as it is on offering students from disadvantaged backgrounds an opportunity to flourish and accomplish their aspirations and academic goals.
“Huawei has stringent qualification standards and recruits postgraduates with ICT related majors, Jiang says. Because of the current situation– it is difficult to find the right candidates. It is looking for engineers in IT, IP, network, and automisation, among others. Rather than waiting for that talent to come to us, we recognise that we have an obligation to grow it.”
“At the same time,” Jiang adds, “we want to expose students to technologies that they will encounter in the working world, allowing them to come out of their studies ready to enter the workplace.”
Wits and Huawei championing research and innovation
Speaking at the bursary awards ceremony, Peter Bezuidenhoudt, Director of the Wits Development and Fundraising Office said Huawei’s commitment to research and development resonated with Wits’ own vision of creating and championing globally significant research and innovation:
“For the past three years the Huawei and Wits partnership have created opportunities for students to thrive and excel in ICT related fields and shape the destiny of young people and the competitiveness of the country. Through this partnership, we continue to secure South Africa’s position in the digital economy.
He concluded by encouraging the bursary recipients to make their impressions on the future by embracing the opportunity to create lasting value, empower others and become innovators.
A beacon of hope
For Bolekwa Mboniswa, an Information Systems Honours student, the bursary represents the chance to fulfil years of hard work and is reward for finding a field of study she’s passionate about.
“I was the only person to be admitted into Wits during my matric year and the second in the entire history of the high school I went to, so I felt a lot of pressure to succeed,” Mboniswa says. “Unfortunately, I was met with failure at Wits when I enrolled for mining engineering and I lost my scholarship.”
Rather than giving up, she took it as a sign that she was in the wrong field and enrolled in Information Systems instead.
“My first year was hard since I was staying at home but I received NSFAS funding in my second year, which eventually led to me graduating in record time with a few distinctions,” she says.
Now that she is pursuing postgraduate studies, Mboniswa who hails from Cosmo City says the bursary will be a major help in her achieving her long-term goal of “being a beacon of hope to little township boys and girls.” For now, though, she’s concentrating on completing her honours and graduating cum laude “so I can contribute as much value as possible to any team I am in.”
For third-year student Lerato Hlagala from Polokwane, the bursary is a chance to fulfill a long-term ambition to get into the technology space.
“My goal is to become a professional software developer,” she says. “I would love to be part of a software organisation where I could share the knowledge and talents that I have learned. I want to be part of a place where I would gain more skills and grow as an individual.”
“The bursary will help me get where I want to be,” she adds. “I am already learning a lot more than I would have without this support, especially now that I have added an extra module from Huawei to my studies. It allows me to focus and fully pay attention to my books without getting distracted by unpaid expenses.”
“It’s vital that we have to get more students take up STEM courses (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) in South Africa, says Jiang. “As Huawei, we’re proud to be part of building those numbers and ensuring that those who do take those courses are as well equipped to enter the workplace as possible.”