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SAPOA Bursary Fund: Paying it forward by paving the way for SA’s future property leadership

Fellow South Africans, our economy needs to grow much faster if we are to meaningfully reduce unemployment … The most effective and sustainable way to build an economy is to equip people with the skills and know-how to drive it,” – comments made by President Cyril Ramaphosa during his 2023 State of the Nation Adress (SONA) (1) in February 2023.

While South Africa registered a slight decrease in its unemployment rate to 32.6% during 2023’s second quarter, 7.9 million people were noted as unemployed with only 6.6% in possession of tertiary qualifications and 2.4% graduates, according to StatsSA’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey Q2 2023(2).

During that same quarter, the construction industry recorded the largest increase in employment (104 000) out of all of the sectors – the dots that government fails to connect and further proof that the local real estate industry remains a critical contributor to the economy.

Over the years, the private sector has stepped up to the plate in recognition of the potential that South Africa’s real estate industry holds, including the South African Property Owners Association (SAPOA), who has, since 2011, granted R31.6 million in sponsorships through the SAPOA Bursary Fund.

One recipient of the bursary fund worth mentioning is Lerato Buthelezi, a final year BSc Property Studies student at Wits who has been invited to join the prestigious Golden Key International Honour Society, in recognition of her academic excellence.     

Lerato Buthelezi

She grew up in the small town of QwaQwa in the Free State, the first born of three children to a single mother who drove home the importance of a good education.

Confident in pursuing a degree in real estate but without the financial means to fund her own studies, Lerato came across the SAPOA Bursary Fund online.

While I applied for numerous bursaries, I was dead set on the SAPOA Bursary Fund because it differs in the sense that it specifically funds real estate studies and its not a standard sponsorship whereby I would just receive funding; it would also open a door for me in the industry on completion of my tertiary education,” she says.

She matriculated in 2020 with four distinctions, including Accounting, and in early 2021, she was accepted as a bursar to the SAPOA Bursary Fund on receipt of her successful application to Wits.

In addition to funding her tuition, the SAPOA Bursary Fund covered her accommodation, the cost of her text books and provided her with a laptop for online lectures.

However, her first year at Wits was a challenge. Not only was Lerato studying during the height of Covid-19, but she was not prepared for the university environment (having come from a rural public high school setting), she did not have the technical knowledge required to use a computer for online learning and she struggled to adapt to content format and the new way in which her work was assessed.

Fortunately, the SAPOA Bursary Fund partnered me with a tutor who was studying the same course that I was doing which was a huge help. I believe that had it not been for the tutoring, I could have possibly failed Maths and Statistics during my first year.”

Lerato is currently completing her undergraduate degree and she hopes to be a part of a graduate internship or graduate program next year while pursuing her honours degree.

Looking back, I learnt that I was disciplined and independent during a time when I was alone in a new environment. I thrived and it has been such a beautiful journey for me with the SAPOA Bursary Fund.

When moving from my first semester to my second semester, Moeketsi Moshata, Bursary and Career Specialist at SAPOA, came to check up on me and to see how I was doing. This really hit home and brought me back to my original opinion – I didn’t just get sponsorship for my tuition; they are a bursary fund that truly cared about my wellbeing too.”

The success of the SAPOA Bursary Fund over the years must be attributed to its generous sponsors, its team, and its trustees who work behind the scenes tirelessly to ensure that each and every student who enters the programme receives full support to succeed in their university careers.

Diphetlho Masemola, a registered architect, is one of fund’s latest trustees to join the cause.  

My education has afforded me so many opportunities over the past fourteen years but unfortunately, I have witnessed the struggle of my friends who were not able to complete their degrees as they were faced with the difficult decision of dropping out of university due to financial difficulties.”

The SAPOA Bursary Fund doesn’t just focus on one aspect of a university education, which is one of the reasons why it resonates with me. It is holistic in terms of the services and support it offers to its students, including a mentorship programme and psychological assistance, to ensure that its students complete their education without having to worry about financial assistance.”

As the real estate industry, it is important to not only focus on our careers moving forward, but to ask ourselves who are we taking along with us? Whom are we providing opportunities for? If you were fortunate to be a bursary fund recipient, you need to ask yourself if you are able to dedicate your time and/or financial resources to give back so that so many others receive the same opportunities that you did. As anyone growing in their profession, you have to take on the responsibility for those who are coming before them by paying it forward.”

Applications for the SAPOA Bursary Fund’s 2024 cohort close on the 15th of September 2023.


  1. President Ramaphosa’s 2023 SONA Address.
  2. StatsSA’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey Q2 2023.