by Staff Reporter


The inspiring story of a mineworker's child

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As the 20-year anniversary celebrations of the JB Marks Education Trust Fund draw to a close, we take a closer look at a bursary scheme that has played a fundamental role in altering the lives of more than a thousand South Africans. It is not every day that positive stories make waves in the media, but in this instance, it would be an injustice to not share the story of a Trust Fund that was established by one of the country’s most influential labour unions – the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

Over the past two decades, the Trust has produced a total of 1 121 graduates with undergraduate qualifications from institutions across South Africa. The bursary was founded on the visionary foresights of extraordinary leaders such as Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, former President Kgalema Motlanthe and Dr James Motlatsi, who wanted the emancipation of black people to be tangible and the transformation to yield sustainable, measurable progress – the kind of progress that would have a socio-economic ripple effect across families and communities.

To date, the Trust has enabled more than a thousand beneficiaries of NUM (a mixture of NUM members, their spouses and dependents) to graduate with mainstream qualifications from tertiary institutions. The Trust covers registration, tuition, prescribed text books, accommodation, extra lessons, meals, bridging courses and capacity- building programs for all their beneficiaries – with no obligation to reimburse the Trust upon completion of a qualification. On an annual basis, the Trust has an intake of 200 new beneficiaries for undergraduate studies and since 2013, 50 postgraduate beneficiaries.

This is without a doubt, the highest number of bursaries offered by any Trust in the country, making JB Marks Education Trust Fund not only an uncommon assert to the future of South Africa; but also a pioneer of true transformation in the educational sphere. Thanks to the Mineworkers Investment Trust (MIT), through dividends from the Mineworkers Investment Company (MIC), JB Marks is able to continuously carry out its mandate in advocating for the advancement of members of the NUM through education.

Undoubtedly, 2017 has been one of the busiest years of the Trust and there are many milestones that the Trust has celebrated. For the first time since inception, the Trust produced over a hundred graduates. At the 2017 8th annual JB Marks Graduation Awards, the Overall Winner was Mapula Letsoela, who achieved 28 distinctions and graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Education: Intermediate and Senior Phase. She is a spouse of an NUM member and she was awarded three trophies at the Awards for her massive achievements.

Her story is the kind that inspires ordinary people to strive for more, it humbles the soul and it makes one proud to be a South African. After completing her matric, she took a number of courses towards Electrical Engineering but spent years struggling to find employment. Then she volunteered at Ithuteng Community Library at the New Vaal Colliery Mine where she realised her calling to become a teacher. She discovered this when she started assisting learners with their school work, particularly maths and life orientation. This propelled her to open a Girls Club every Friday at the library, which resulted in her receiving an award from the

Free State MEC in 2006 for her contribution to society. Today, Letsoela is an educator at Vuyo Primary School teaching Mathematics, Natural Science and Life Skills. “Mapula is an inspiration, a true reflection of the good work that is done by the Trust. At JB Marks, we contributed what we could to her incredible journey and she in turn, is changing so many lives through her work. We are extremely proud of her, and within our Trust there are many stories similar to hers – of people who have defied extraordinary odds to improve their lives.

For example, in 2014, another of our top graduates, Sicelo Masuku was a car guard in the busy streets of Johanneburg before getting a bursary from the Trust. He is a resilient young man who had led a very tough life, with his father getting injured while working at the mines and subsequently losing his job. Today Sicelo is a qualified Chartered Accountant,” Jako Mokgosi, the Principal Officer of the JB Marks Education Trust Fund explained.

The Trust also takes its responsibility of enhancing the livelihood of the community very seriously, and that is why six years ago, the Trust undertook the decision to give back by conducting career guidance exhibitions across the country.

This exhibition has been to Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West, Northern Cape and this year, the Eastern Cape and it is always conducted in partnership with the provincial Department of Education. This year, the 6th Annual JB Marks Career Exhibition reached close to 9000 high school learners in grade 11 and 12 over a two day period in Mthatha.

This initiative is conducted by the Trust in the hopes that previously disadvantaged children, particularly those who live in the rural areas and still have no access to information and opportunities; are able to obtain invaluable information and tools that would assist them and guide them in making informed decisions when considering their future careers. More than 70 organisations from both the public and private sector participated in this exhibition, including FNB, JAAP South African Air Force, MERSETA, Old Mutual, Post Bank, SAPS Forensics, Tsogo Sun, Vodacom, South African Weather Services and many more.

“I am proud of the achievements of the Trust, not only from this year alone, but from over the past 20 years. Celebrating our 20th anniversary with the 900 NUM members at the 2017 Committee Conference was phenomenal; the 6th annual JB Marks Memorial Lecture that we hosted at the University of Johannesburg with Professor Mary Metcalfe as the Keynote Address speaker delivered incredible insights on the quality versus the quantity of education and its impact on the socio-economic future of South

Africa; and finally, the Alumni AGM and Gala Dinner was progressive and with the newly elected leadership, we have no doubt that our alumni will do exceptionally well and leave a footprint on the African map,” added Mokgosi.

The Principal Officer also has one humble appeal to make to Corporate South Africa: “The Trust requires more funding to carry on with its good work. Hundreds of applicants are turned away every year due to budget constraints, we need more help. Help us change the world, help us improve the lives of our people – let us create a nation of educated citizens, for the sake our future as a country, for the sake of our children and their children’s children.”

For more information about the Trust

and how to contribute, please visit or call +27 11 492 0601 

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