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SAICA NEWS: Thuthuka’s trustees speak out

Thuthuka has made significant progress in the past seven years, according to the people who should know – the trustees of the Thuthuka Bursary Fund (TBF).

In June this year, SAICA polled the trustees with a view to assessing whether or not Thuthuka was achieving its objectives and to ascertaining what steps should be taken to render the initiative more effective than it already had been.

All the TBF’s trustees were polled. The following questions were posed to the trustees:

•  What more can the profession do to support Thuthuka?

•  How can the Department of Labour and the Department of Education be persuaded to do more to bolster the Thuthuka Bursary Fund and to offer other forms of assistance?

•  How well do you think Thuthuka has progressed since you first became involved in the initiative? Has it perhaps missed a trick?

Chantyl Mulder, SAICA’s senior executive for transformation and growth has expressed her gratitude to the trustees that took the time to respond to the questionnaire.

“I am obviously thrilled that they all have recognised the great strides Thuthuka has made. Their suggestions and recommendations are absolutely invaluable, providing, as they do, much food for thought. Anything that enhances Thuthuka’s efficacy will be pursued with vigour and enthusiasm.”

And this is what some of the trustees had to say:

Sizwe Nxasana CA(SA) – FirstRand Group

“For all involved it has been an amazing journey. Thuthuka was started in 2005 with only 123 students. Currently we have 875 students on the programme. As trustees, we continually challenge ourselves as well as the providers and seek ways in which to learn and to adapt the programmes as we go along. One item we have identified as being of concern is the fact that the communication and comprehension skills of the students are proving to be a problem.

We need to come up with a smart way in which to include these skills as part of the core courses and not a one-off add on short course. All the educators involved with the Thuthuka Bursary Fund programme are now exploring ways in which this can be done successfully. We wait and learn, and share ideas. What to me is very exciting is that other bursary fund providers are asking us to assist them in also setting up similar bursary fund programmes for disciplines such as engineering. Together, as the profession, we need at least to double the number of the new student intake annually.

Through the National Skills levy more funding needs to be set aside to support grades 10, 11 and 12 learners attached to a Thuthuka accredited university to improve their literacy and numeracy skills. This will support the project at undergraduate level, as universities have to deal with certain fundamentals that should have been dealt with at a secondary school level, which also makes it extremely difficult for the students.

A lot more career awareness needs to be done at secondary school level by the Department of Higher Learning and Training, encouraging more learners to take mathematics and to write all three mathematics papers.”

Mark Bower CA(SA) – Edcon

“The profession should do more to promote its Thuthuka Trust achievements amongst members in commerce and industry. Members of the profession, in turn, will then give greater support to Thuthuka initiatives once they perceive what is being done. SAICA must engage relevant government departments to establish a teachers’ subvention programmes to augment salaries, specifically of maths and English teachers in schools.

Government must also add to the SAICA subvention programme to support the accounting departments at universities. I joined the Eden Trust management committee at its inaugural meeting. Its initial progress was slow but, since the merger with Thuthuka, the achievements have been remarkable. The shortage of Black chartered accountants is unfortunately still dire, and Thuthuka perhaps needs to develop a formula to train chartered accountants by correspondence, distance learning or e-training, if ever we want the profession to reflect the demographics of South Africa.”

Terence Nombembe CA(SA) – Auditor General South Africa

“Progress is very impressive in terms of both the management capacity and the delivery of results in line with the primary objective of producing African and Coloured professionals. The facts, as contained in the latest annual report and the strategic planning session, bear testimony to this reality. There are still a number of opportunities, as outlined in the latest strategic planning session, that need to be pursued in order for Thuthuka to optimise further the skills development pipeline for the profession.

The profession and SAICA must facilitate practical exposure and mentorship in business for all Thuthuka students during vacations, and continuously grow the trust fund through extensive marketing to wider business networks. This could complement the one-on-one presentations already in place with big business. The departments of higher education and labour must be engaged through supplementary round table discussions between the minister and trustees at least once or twice a year.”

Temba Zakhuza – University of Fort Hare

“The profession can continue with what it does and also recognise other potential sources of Thuthuka participants. The Department Higher Education and Labour may be co-opted to support other preparatory initiatives without having to pay cash into the fund as a bursary. This can be achieved by, for example, a collaboration between the two departments to use teacher training colleges that were closed down in various provinces, and make them centres of excellence for preparation of students for the accounting profession.

Students that fall below the minimum requirements for a bursary could be channelled to these centres to do a foundation year before being sent to the university and make that foundation year have extensive language proficiency and numeracy modules to get them to the appropriate level to qualify for further assistance towards their degrees. We lose a lot of students through the screening process.”

Vassi Naidoo – Deloitte UK

“I believe Thuthuka has made significant progress, but progress has been limited to the larger cities and the involvement of the big firms. We need to broaden our reach and encourage the Department of Labour to offer a portion of its funding to have accountants developed for specific regions or cities and towns, so you create a partnership between the profession (including small firms), Department of Labour and local business. While the big four firms are hugely committed to Thuthuka, I believe we need to have the small and medium sized firms also committed to the development of black students. This will certainly increase the number of accountants, and increase access of black people to the profession if these firms commit to funding and training contracts for these students.”

Ismail Amod CA(SA) – TBF Board Member

“Thuthuka has done exceptionally well in dealing with challenges such as inconsistent levels of commitment between universities and changes to school curricula. I believe that Thuthuka has sought to succeed in covering all potential risk areas. More full-time personnel would help the Thuthuka team, but not at the risk of escalating administrative costs unnecessarily.

Individual professionals (not just firms) must really appreciate that the need for Black CAs is not just a transformation initiative but a necessity if South Africa is to prosper. Then, individuals must consider making themselves available to support various Thuthuka initiatives, financially or in kind. The interdependencies between Thuthuka and government must be clear.”

Grant Gelink – Deloitte South Africa

“Certainly Thuthuka has added to the pool of potential chartered accountants. However, we must find a way to lower the cost of getting candidates to the post CTA level. I think the profession is doing all it can in terms of participation. However, we need to drive what we are already more doing intensively to achieve better results.”