Autistic boy, 11, who 'taught' himself under a tree, is doing well at school after fundraising effort

Siboniso is happy at his new school. (Angel Network)
Siboniso is happy at his new school. (Angel Network)

An autistic boy is doing well at school after South Africans reached into their pockets to fund his education through a crowdfunding platform.

Siboniso, 11, did not attend school because of the cost and spent his days under a tree in KwaNyuswa, 170km south of Durban in KwaZulu-Natal.

However, by Thursday morning, a BackaBuddy campaign had raised R77 079.29 on a target of R40 000 to facilitate his attendance at a special needs school in his area.

READ: Autistic boy, 11, will finally be going to school after 'teaching' himself under tree

Non-profit organisation The Angel Network created the campaign to ensure that Siboniso was afforded an education.

"I'd never met him. He's based in KwaZulu-Natal. We put it on Facebook on our page and we started getting R10 000 to R20 000," Angel Network founder Glynne Wolman told News24.

She said the donations increased once online media platforms reported his story.

The money is carefully managed to ensure that Siboniso's needs are met.

'Dearest soul'

"He goes to school on Monday and goes home on Friday. There's more than enough money to cover school, stationery and transport," said Wolman.

Dawn Harrison deals with children who have learning disabilities and manages Siboniso's funds.

"He's only been at school for five days. There'll be no academic progress as yet," she told News24.

"He initially refused to go to the dining hall in the evening, but he is settling down well. The teacher loves the boy; he is the dearest soul."

The crowdfunding model has shown to be effective in driving donations to needy causes and BackaBuddy has put systems in place to prevent abuse of the platform.

Chief operating officer Catherine Du Plooy told News24 that BackaBuddy offers to manage funds on behalf of the campaign creators, and pay institutions in the case of student campaigns, of which there are many.

"For this reason, we offer the option to manage funds for our campaign creators and pay universities and other relevant intuitions directly to ensure donor peace of mind when supporting students. BackaBuddy-assisted campaigns also tend to raise more funds," she said.


In 2018 alone, more than R35m was raised on BackaBuddy and more than 1 800 new crowdfunding campaigns were launched.

The platform has raised R89.2m in total.

Some of the new student campaigns include aspiring engineer Brighton Manaba, 22, and Miselwa, whose friend Luntu Masiza created the campaign after she was suspended from AFDA for outstanding fees four months before finishing her degree.

"Campaigns usually raise more funds if driven by close family members or a friend who is passionate about the beneficiary and what they are trying to achieve," Du Plooy added.

*CORRECTION: A previous version of this article said Luntu Masiza was one of the students campaigning after being suspended for outstanding fees. Masiza is in fact a campaign creator on behalf of friend, Miselwa. We apologise for the error.

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