A total of 200 students at the University of the Free State (UFS) have received a much-needed boost in the form of funding towards their studies. T-Systems South Africa (TSSA) has contributed R2,4 million to aid this group of students.This announcement was made on 13 February. It came while current and historical higher education student debt across all institutions cause many prospective students to face financial exclusion.The funding is the result of cooperation between the Kovsie Alumni Trust (KAT) and the National Building Initiative, the TSSA’s corporate social-responsibility wing, which is committed to skills development, quality education and job creation. The TSSA is a local unit of T-Systems International, a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom. Through funding the company strives to help to address skills shortages in South Africa, endorse inclusive transformation and the implementation of skills and enterprise development, as well as boost job creation. This is in line with the company’s National Development Plan for 2030, which envisions the elimination of poverty and reduced inequality. The KAT identified this opportunity as a call for the university to aid the advancement of students through initiatives such as the Integrated Transformation Plan (ITP), which was first launched in 2017.Lacea Loader, UFS spokesperson, said the UFS Alumni office facilitated a process that gave preference for the bursary to be awarded to students completing honours studies in fields such as technology, marketing and human resources, as well as qualifications routed in accounting and finance. “The TSSA paid off the university debt of students selected in 2019, giving them the opportunity to reapply in 2020,” said Loader. Considerations for the bursary in 2020 will include students from all study years and matriculants who will be enrolling at university for the first time. “The contribution of funding from T-Systems enabled us to empower our honours students by paying their outstanding university debt for 2019,” said Prof. Corli Witthuhn, UFS vice-rector for Research, Innovation and Internationalisation. “This has had a significant impact on the lives of many of our honours students who will be able to enrol for master’s programmes or seek employment without the burden of university debt.”Dineo Molefe, TSSA managing director, said the company’s investment in education had been a number of developmental initiatives. These include its ICT Academy, which provides free learnerships and internship programmes, which include a learnership for people with disablities, as well as the flagship Hazyview Digital Learning Centre in Mpumalanga, which has become a unique rural nearshoring success story.