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Accountants breed accountants

If each CA(SA) donated R500 per annum (fully tax deductible), SAICA could support 50% more bright young students

At the inaugural North-West dinner for the Association for the Advancement of Black Accountants in South Africa (ABASA), many accountants were left wondering as to how one particular family could produce such provincial success in the accountancy profession. The Mahikeng-based Bootha family boast four members in the Chartered Accountancy field: Professor Akbar Bootha (head of the Department of Accounting at North-West University, Mahikeng Campus) and his wife Shireen Bootha (a retired teacher), are proud parents of three young graduates – Saffiyah, Farzeen and Shaah – who are all currently undertaking their articles at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Shaah, in particular, is something of a prodigy, having graduated with his first accounting degree at age 18 and completed SAICA’s Initial Test of Competency (ITC) exams at age 20.

Professor Bootha knows the value of making the right choices in education and having support from both family and community in order to excel. “One of the things that my father taught us was that without education we would go nowhere in life,” he says. “So you have to get the best education that you can.”

It is the benefit of this support that Professor Bootha received and in turn provided for his children, that is mirrored in the Thuthuka Bursary Fund’s drive to create a system of support that allows students to thrive in the academic and, ultimately, the accounting world. Especially deserving are those who are talented and hardworking but lack established encouragement and support structures and, of course, the required funding.

Professor Bootha comments: “I have witnessed great growth in the awareness that has been created by the tireless efforts of Thuthuka, at schools as well as with parents and students, particularly in the rural North-West. There has also been an increase in parent awareness around the CA(SA) brand as a result of SAICA’s efforts in the region and an increase in the number of parents of BCom students pushing them to take Accountancy as their major, due to the profitability and prestige the CA(SA) profession holds.”

Unfortunately the state of education in South Africa – particularly with regard to mathematics at school level – is one of the main hurdles facing prospective CA(SA) graduates. South Africa is ranked second last in the Global Competitiveness survey for mathematics and science. “We are getting students with good matric passes but they are still not doing well at university,” laments Bootha. “Educators are more concerned with a high pass rate, therefore they are encouraging learners to take subjects they will pass, rather than subjects that will get them ahead in the future.”

An important part of the solution to this problem is that parents need to be more aware of their children’s education and the correct subject choices that must be made. “As a parent to three prospective CAs(SA),” says Professor Bootha, “I’m the first to say that the education battle starts at home. Parents need to realise that it is the importance that they place on education, along with their active encouragement of their children to achieve that is the beginning of any great career.”

SAICA understands the need for quality education at both schools and universities and is working together with the government on implementing programmes that support the National Development Plan (NDP) to ensure success by its 2030 target date.

The Thuthuka Bursary Fund (TBF) is one of these initiatives aimed at skills development, an important part of the NDP. At present, there are about 1 500 TBF students attending nine universities across the country. The ‘first fruit’ of the programme were 26 trainees who qualified as CAs(SA) in early 2012. In the context of a profession where only 3 843 out of over 36 000 CAs(SA) nationally are either African or Coloured, this is a vital programme. The TBF is a unique fund established to boost the number of CAs(SA) in the country and to normalise the racial profile.

Ultimately, it will rely on the collective effort of parents, schools, universities, SAICA and funds such as Thuthuka, to ensure that South Africa’s youth, particularly those who aspire to join the accounting profession, have access to correct advice and support throughout their studies. It is essential that each of these role-players understand their responsibilities and do their utmost to make a difference.

Many CAs(SA) already make an annual pledge to support this programme. It costs R40 000 per annum, per student to sustain a programme which this industry can be justly proud of. If each CA(SA) donated R500 per annum, the TBF could support 50% more bright young students. If you wish to contribute, please contact nthatos@saica.co.zaAll donations are appreciated and are tax deductable.

Yuven Gounden