What is SSP’s ultimate goal?

The vision of Student Sponsorship Programme (SSP) is to develop leaders for South Africa. To build leaders, potential must be identified early and nurtured holistically. This is the role of SSP. The programme enables academically distinguished, low-income learners to flourish at South Africa’s top secondary schools. We endeavour to follow up and support our graduates to ensure that they take advantage of all opportunities available to them post secondary school. SSP expects its scholars to succeed in secondary school, continue onto university and ultimately contribute to South Africa’s development.

What is SSP’s value proposition?

In response to the challenges in the educational system of South Africa, especially for low-income disadvantaged children, SSP was founded in 1999. The programme works to “level the playing field” by giving disadvantaged scholars with proven academic abilities, the funding and support services to access the country’s best secondary education. The services of SSP include a five-year full tuition scholarship, an annual stipend to cover other educational costs such as uniforms and books, personal and leadership development, as well as personal mentorship. The programme is also benefiting parents of our scholars through engaging them in activities that support their personal growth.

How does SSP recruit?

Since its inaugural class in 2000, SSP has developed an extensive recruitment strategy. Our main partners in recruitment are the primary schools. On an annual basis, SSP mails recruitment packs consisting of an introductory letter and the application form to more than 1 200 target feeder schools, most in disadvantaged communities. We further enlist the support of the Departments of Education’s district offices and a number of community-based organisations such as churches, community radio stations and newspapers to disseminate SSP recruitment information. To identify high-calibre learners in grade 6 from low-income families, candidates are required to perform well in SSP literacy and numeracy tests. The top scorers are then invited to undergo interviews in which they are expected to exhibit leadership potential, initiative and commitment to their studies. Information about a family’s financial standing is also sought after in a financial interview with parents. Successful candidates then form part of the Scholar Development Programme (SDP) while in grade 7, but not all are guaranteed the secondary school scholarship. Scholarships are only awarded to those who prove themselves worthy, on the basis of academic performance, commitment, participation and leadership ability, in the SDP.

What criteria are used to select learners?

SSP’s awards scholarships on the basis of both academic merit and financial need. Learners are required to meet the following criteria:
• Be in grade 6 at the time of application
• Not older than 12 years of age at the time of application
• Achieve an overall average of 70% or above at primary school
• Achieve a 70% minimum grade for mathematics, English and science
• Financial need
• Leadership potential and community orientation

How does SSP assess financial need?

A family qualifies for an application for the scholarship if the total annual family income does not exceed R200 000. Parents are expected to submit proof in this regard, including salary advises, bank statements and information about their monthly expenditure. Also considered are per capita spending, family assets and liabilities, as well as other sources of income such as social grants, business income and extended family support. A financial need ranking, ranging from 1 to 5, with 5 being the most needy, is assigned to all families following the financial interview. Final selection, however, balances the contribution of all factors including financial need, performance on the entrance tests and participation in the SDP such that academic merit is prioritised.

How does SSP select partner schools?

SSP partners with the best schools in South Africa. We believe that academically talented learners must be placed in environments where they can be challenged and developed. Our partner schools provide these environments. SSP partner schools are reviewed and selected in accordance with criteria that SSP deems essential to the success of our scholars. We choose our partner schools based on matriculation rates, university exemption rates, overall academic excellence, broad opportunities for learning experiences inside and outside of the classroom, support from the school and the school’s governing body, a reasonable number of the partner school’s alumni currently in leadership positions, a 100% maths matric pass rate and the ability of SSP to send a critical mass of Scholars to the school annually over five years.

Why do we partner with private schools, rather than good public schools?

SSP partners with both private and public schools. Currently, 1/3 of our partner schools are public. Our partner schools are among the best schools in South Africa and among the top 100 schools in Africa. The aforementioned criteria are used to inform the partnership with any secondary school in Gauteng (Johannesburg and Pretoria) and the Eastern Cape (East London and Grahamstown).

Why urban not rural?

SSP partners with secondary schools within a metropolis whose feeder community includes township schools. SSP does not target the rural child at this stage as this poses various complications that our programme is not equipped to address. For example, the scholarship does not cover boarding, transport to school nor meals for recipients. In addition, few secondary schools in the rural parts of South Africa would meet SSP’s criteria for partnership. While we do not actively recruit from rural areas, we do consider applications from various provinces. Learners from Limpopo, North West and Free State provinces have applied and some have been offered scholarships at our partner schools. In these cases the schools cover the cost of boarding.

Why doesn’t SSP provide boarding?

Although SSP awards scholarships to learners, we place much value on the family unit and strive to support all within it. SSP ensures the holistic development of a child and believes that the parents/guardians have an equal role to play in the three way relationship of 1) teacher, 2) scholar and 3) parent. For this reason SSP prefers that each Scholar resides with his or her family, and all effort is made to ensure the success of the family unit. On rare occasion, Scholars are deemed to be better off in the school’s boarding house, particularly if they need to travel far distances to and from school. A few historical boarding schools such as St. Johns Boys College, St. Stithians Boys College, American International School Johannesburg, St. Albans and St. Andrews’ College (Grahamstown), prefer to fund boarding for SSP scholarship recipients.

How many learners are in the programme?

SSP has awarded 581 scholarships since its inception. There are currently 310 Scholars in secondary school and 271 SSP alumni. In addition, there are 96 Grade 7 learners in our Scholars Development Programme.

What is the racial demographic of SSP learners?

SSP’s BEE Certificate issued by Empowerdex indicates a black beneficiary base of 92%.

Do township learners benefit from the programme?

Yes. A large percentage of our beneficiaries are learners from surrounding townships in Johannesburg, Pretoria, East London and Grahamstown.

How much does the programme cost per child?

The current cost to sponsor a child in SSP is R43 000 per child per annum. This includes tuition fees and an annual stipend to cover other educational costs such as uniforms, books and sporting equipment. SSP matches each learner with an individual or institutional sponsor who commits to funding his or her full five-year education.

Why should I pay R43 000 for one learner’s education for one year when I could invest that in a teacher’s salary?

We encourage our partners to view their contribution to SSP as an investment in South Africa’s future doctors, lawyers, engineers and other leaders. A wide spectrum of interventions is necessary to develop the next generation of South African leaders and to address the challenges in the nation’s educational system. SSP appreciates, and at times partners with, other organisations that specialise in teacher development. Our intervention, however, provides the most talented, economically disadvantaged learners with the access and support they need to excel.

How often does SSP have alumni coming back and paying it forward?

SSP alumni are continuously encouraged to give back to their respective communities by means of, amongst others, volunteering with various civil society organisations, tutoring and mentoring their peers and other SSP scholars, as well as taking advantage of opportunities offered to them by their respective universities to engage in community service. Furthermore, the SSP Alumni Organisation’s annual activities include a community service project that all alumni are invited to partake in. A number of SSP graduates have taken up internships/fellowships at the SSP office and many more assist staff members at SSP events on a regular basis. Some SSP alumni have also started their own community based projects and NGOs.

What does mentorship mean at SSP? How much face to face interaction is there?

Every year, SSP recruits committed individuals to serve as mentors for our learners. A mentor is an adult advisor, friend, and role model to the SSP scholar and enables the mentee to fulfil his or her full potential. Mentoring is a two way street of satisfaction and transformation. The mentors are amazed and energized by what they have to offer and find the experience deeply fulfilling. SSP matches mentors with SSP scholars taking into consideration the location of both parties, interests, hobbies and gender. SSP assists the mentor and mentee with training, written materials, and suggestions for outings. We also host mentor and mentee events. Most mentor and mentee pairs have face to face interaction over and above the required four times a year. They also stay in contact via e-mail, telephone calls and sms.

What are the requirements of mentors?

At a minimum, SSP requires each mentor to:

• Attend training sessions and other events arranged by SSP for mentors and mentees.
• Each mentor is required to see his or her mentee four times per year as part of SSP’s scheduled events. Mentors are encouraged to provide other opportunities for face to face meetings outside of SSP scheduled events.
• Mentors are to be in contact via email or telephone once a month. We encourage mentors to establish a frequency that they will be able to maintain over the long term.
• Mentors are required to send us a paragraph twice a year describing any interesting aspects of his or her mentee and their interaction over the previous six months. SSP sends mentors the school reports of their mentee after each term.

Who are SSP’s funders?

SSP is funded by an international group of corporations, foundations, business leaders and individuals. Our funders are located in South Africa, the United States, United Kingdom, Asia and beyond. A full list of funders is available upon request.

How much of the overall budget goes to administrative costs?
We aim for administrative costs to be no more than 20% of the overall budget.

How do we make sure the programme is sustainable?

Over the last 11 years we have fostered partnerships with education departments, funders, communities, parents, schools and other like-minded organisations. Our vision is aligned with the millennium development goals of improving the quality of, and access to, education for disenfranchised individuals. From a programme perspective, we ensure sustainability by regularly reviewing our support and academic programmes to ensure that they are relevant and support the delivery of our vision. Staff are also encouraged to engage in continuous self-development in order to be innovative in the implementation of their programmes and projects. The relationship with our alumni is a priority as these are the individuals who will either through their networks or personally contribute to the organisation. From a financial perspective, we strive for sustainability by requesting all sponsors to commit to a five year funding period. This ensures that each learner is guaranteed funding for his or her entire secondary school career. Furthermore, SSP’s longer term goal is to establish an endowment fund that would generate ongoing revenue to sustain our operations.

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Gauteng T:   +27 10 206 0022

Physical Address:
76 Juta Street (NBC Head Office)
Braamfontein Johannesburg

Postal Address:
PO Box 781097, Sandton 2146

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