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24 March 2018
Mentors bridge the gap
A foundation started by a UWC alumnus in 2015 is proving the value of mentoring in supporting students studying commerce.

The Roland Greaver Leadership Foundation, named after founder Roland Greaver, who is also the Chief Executive Officer of Kagiso Asset Management, aims to create opportunities for historically disadvantaged and impoverished South African learners by giving them access to quality education, resources and skills. A crucial focus of the foundation is the development of beneficiaries’ skills and abilities through comprehensive coaching and early leadership development.

Specifically, the foundation is helping a group of students from UWC, the University of Cape Town and Stellenbosch University who wish to become chartered accountants to pursue their higher education ambitions and to successfully transition into the work environment. This will contribute to transformation of the accounting profession, which still has disproportionately few black accountants.

Each beneficiary is allocated an experienced mentor who they meet regularly.

UWC student Nontobeko Spell, in her second year of study towards a BCom Finance degree, feels well supported by peers who are experiencing similar challenges, and a foundation that is fully funding her studies and providing practical opportunities. She is now more confident of realising her dream of becoming an auditor.

“With the mentor you talk about everything; school, exams and life. She is actually mentoring me and guiding me to the right path,” says Spell. “This is very helpful because she is an accountant and I’m studying towards that field. I want to be in her shoes one day and advise students on stress management and university life because it is very hard if you don’t have anyone to speak to.”

Spell has spent two years in the foundation’s programme. She says, “In June we went to do job shadowing. It was fun and interesting. And my mentor has already discussed possibilities of getting me an internship so that I can actually do what I’m learning.

“As beneficiaries, we meet once a month to discuss our struggles and how we can overcome them,” she adds. “People who have already been in our shoes are invited to those meetings to advise them on what to do.”

Winston Middleton, Manager in the Office for Student Development at UWC, says alumni can serve as networking links between the UWC Careers Service and relevant young talent managers at their organisations. He has appealed to graduates to inform UWC about opportunities at their organisations, avail themselves for campus talks about their career journeys and be willing mentors and role models to students.

“A majority of UWC students are first-generation students who do not have immediate family members they can refer to for professional and career advice. Having a UWC alumnus as a mentor assures our students that they can have someone to relate to who understands their circumstances.”‚Äč