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Kresge awards more than $6M in grants to expand student success in South Africa


The Kresge Foundation today announced a new suite of grants, totaling $6,362,685, or over R 116 million, dedicated to bolstering South Africa’s higher education institutions. The record investment of grant support for Siyaphumelela (which means “we succeed” in isiXhosa) will effectively be the third iteration of funding for the network of institutions dedicated to a collective impact model to systematically change how universities serve students nationally and within institutions to improve student outcomes.

Growing from eight direct institutional grantees to 20 of South Africa’s 26 universities, including several Historically Disadvantaged Institutions, Siyaphumelela 3.0 also marks a significant expansion of the network’s impact and scale. With the addition of the new grantees, roughly 945,000, or nearly 90% of South African public university students, will benefit from the model.

The nationwide Siyaphumelela network will continue to be coordinated by Saide, a South African -based nonprofit committed to transforming education to increase equitable outcomes for all. Jennifer Glennie, Saide’s executive director, comments; “We are hugely grateful to The Kresge Foundation for the vision, links, financial and intellectual support given to the Siyaphumelela Initiative. Kresge is so much more than a funder. Saide is extremely proud to have built this collaborative and vibrant network of universities committed to student success.”

To catalyze student success across the South African higher education system, Siyaphumelela aims to:

  • Establish a more student-centered culture in South Africa’s higher education system to improve student success.
  • Achieve annual targets to improve retention, course success and throughput rates for degrees and diplomas, and eliminate differences based on race, gender and socio-economic status.
  • Improve institutional capacity to collect and use student data for evidence-based decision-making to improve student success across the South African higher education system.
  • Consolidate and share evidence-based student success efforts on a national scale, including supporting students, use of data, teaching and learning and transforming institutions.
  • Embed the student voice in student success initiatives and approaches.

New Siyaphumelela Institutions

Continuing and Returning Siyaphumelela Institutions

South Africa is the only place Kresge works outside of the United States. The foundation began funding South African universities in 1989. To date Kresge has invested nearly $40 million to promote South African postsecondary access and success – especially improving student graduation rates.

“As Kresge celebrates its centennial, the Education Program has the great privilege of championing a rich and deep body of investment… marking 35 years of working in South Africa. Kresge remains committed to South Africa and its future,” said Bill Moses, managing director of Kresge’s Education Program. “When you are tackling systemic challenges, especially issues that manifested over generations, it doesn’t take one, two or even three grant cycles to adequately address those issues. Systemic change requires time and intentionality to succeed.”

In 2014, following extensive engagement with South Africa’s higher education sector and its priorities, Kresge formally launched the Siyaphumelela initiative to encourage the use of data analytics to enhance South African university student success. Complementing similar Kresge access and success efforts in the United States, Siyaphumelela seeks to build institutional capacity to collect and analyze student data to determine when and why students are failing so that institutions can focus on the most effective interventions. Lessons learnt in such implementation is then shared with the wider, and now expanded, network of universities coordinated by Saide.