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SAIS aim to increase financial literacy on campus

By Staff Writer
Students get poor grades for saving money or sticking to a budget, but help is at hand to urgently improve their low level of financial literacy.

The South African Savings Institute (SASI) today (Monday, July 26) continue their concerted year-round drive to help students do better at money management. The beefed-up effort follows hard on the heels of the launch of Savings Month to increase awareness of the need to save across all sectors of society. Old Mutual, the financial services provider, is the lead sponsor of National Savings Month 2010 and the Tertiary literacy campaign.

Elizabeth Lwanga-Nanziri, SASI's chief executive officer, outlined plans to reach all institutions of tertiary education with the organisation's national varsity campaign ‘Get the Grades While You Save'.

"The need arose after the realisation of the role students/youths play in the day-to-day household consumption decisions. Students also have poor management skills which they would easily transfer to the work-place at an even larger scale", says Elizabeth.

The concept was piloted a year ago at the University of the Witwatersrand when a two-day savings exhibition and one-on-one student counselling on budgeting and savings was enthusiastically received. Similar initiatives were later rolled out at the University of Cape Town, the University of Western Cape and the Mafikeng campus of North West University.

The on-campus effort also includes a 45-minute presentation on saving basics. Awareness is reinforced via campus radio and student publications.

The roll-out of the all-year campaign began on 21 July and will climax on August 5 at the Vaal Triangle University campus in Vereeniging.

Lwanga-Nanziri added, "Our initial effort reached an estimated 10 000 students over five months. With a full-year campaign, hopefully across all 23 universities, we plan to reach at least twice that number. This has a ripple effect that would help take the message to the bigger household sector.

"Ideally, our exhibition and student counselling should be integrated into induction week at every university and college, but logistically this is not possible. We will therefore roll out the effort at various stages in the year.

"The concept has been embraced by students, the Department of Education and the university authorities. The scene is now set for a truly national effort."

Pilot initiatives revealed that students often enter university with little knowledge of how to work out a weekly budget or managed money. Many of them in receipt of bursaries and other financial support soon run out of money and lead a hand-to-mouth existence.

Lwanga-Nanziri added: "The danger is that they will not only enter university with no savings skills, but graduate with the same gaping hole in their education. They then enter the world of work with little knowledge on money management, savings products and no sense of danger when it comes to handling credit.

"This leads to debt and creates huge personal and social problems.

"The good news is that the students themselves realise they have a lot to learn about saving and are eager to make up for lost time."

On the varsity campaign, SASI partners with university authorities, Student Representative Councils, the Financial Services Board, the National Credit Regulator and the Provincial Offices of Consumer Affairs.

Further partnerships and sponsorships are being developed to ensure a sustainable, all-year effort. Interaction with bursary-providers is also under way as they share SASI's concerns about the average student's poor money management skills.

In addition, a research drive is planned that will enable SASI to track initial levels of financial literacy among students and how much savings knowledge they absorb in the first, second and third years at varsity.

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