A statement by Sanral in which it is boasting about the engineering bursaries it has given high school learners has strongly divided opinion on social media.
The accompanying photo suggests that only one black child out of 18 is a bursary recipient. However, there do not appear to be racial guidelines on who can get a bursary, as Sanral said in a statement that: “Learners can apply for the Sanral scholarship programme, which supports academically deserving applicants in grades 10 to 12. The minimum requirements are an overall aggregate of 75% – with at least 70% in mathematics and science and 65% in English.”
Some users cautioned against turning the matter into a racial one. Another commented that coloured children should also be considered black, and he counted six coloured kids.
SANRAL scholarship criteria. pic.twitter.com/RnyEJaaVlV
— Linda (@linda_whealan) August 13, 2017
On their website, Sanral wrote that high school learners from Nelson Mandela Bay were recently selected to receive scholarships from the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) in a “chance to make their engineering dreams come true thanks to the agency’s bursary programme”.
“No guys, it has to be by Merit, why do we make it a race thing? i also can’t allocate bursary to anyone,” responded Motlatsi Makhari.
However, a user named Lebohang wrote: “About damn time we took a closer look at @SANRALsa, their Engineering dept resembles a members only broederbond. Job reservations never left.”
Sanral says its programme “pays for school fees, school uniform, books and stationery costs”.
For Port Elizabeth students, it covers additional mathematics classes at the Nelson Mandela University Missionvale campus.
At a recent Sanral event in Port Elizabeth, learners were apparently advised about how to become engineers.
One recipient was Miekaeel Ryneveld, a Grade 11 learner from Alexander Road High School, who said he was very happy to have received the scholarship.
“I want to study engineering. I am just not sure what type of engineering,” Ryneveld said. His maths average was 90%. “I work hard and I get good grades. The scholarship is a big help when it comes to paying school fees, books and winter and summer uniforms,” he said.
Ilke van Vuuren reportedly dreamt of becoming a civil engineer. The 17-year-old from Despatch High School said she loved the idea of building new bridges.
Alison Adams from the Northern Areas in Port Elizabeth, who also goes to Alexander Road, said the Sanral scholarship had “assisted her through her Grade 11 year tremendously.”
They also spoke to the one black leaner, Luzuko Mavela from KwaDwesi, who told Sanral he had “learned about the scholarship through the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in Action project.
He applied and was awarded the scholarship.
“This has been a blessing. It has been more than a financial relief for my family. My parents can now focus their money elsewhere. This has pushed me beyond my limits. It has motivated me to pursue my goals head-on.
“I am involved in a number of activities, including drama and music. I just have to make sure I manage my time well.”
Sanral also interviewed several other beneficiaries.
The agency, which continues to struggle financially in the face of a public boycott of its controversial e-tolls programme, says it has increased its number of scholarship beneficiaries from 172 in 2014/15 to 196 in 2015/16.
“Spending on the programme also rose, albeit in proportion to the increase in beneficiaries, from R2.37 million to R2.99 million,” the agency explained.
Some on Twitter, however, interpreted the Sanral statement as evidence that Sanral was not prioritising the “black child” enough.
Let's retweet for awareness , it seems like Sanral is anti black
— louis mokwena® (@luwens) August 12, 2017
These are kids for model c schools. I'm sure there's deserving kids from the townships and rural areas who actually perform quite well.
— Mahlogonolo (@WilliamMatshaka) August 12, 2017