African Scholars Fund

The African Scholars Fund (ASF) was established in the Western Cape 1970’s to provide financial assistance to black high school students at the height of apartheid when black school education was under siege.

The founder, the late Margaret Elsworth, was supported by several volunteers who provided strategic advice and administrative support from their private homes. During this time of turmoil, schools were often at the center of the protest movement and many learners were arrested or fled the country. Despite these extreme hardships, the ASF persevered and endured as a privately funded and volunteer organization providing desperately need assistance to black scholars in impoverished areas. This continued until the fall of apartheid when the ASF was able to rent an office and hire paid staff needed to scale the operation.

Today, the ASF is still a privately funded organization and supports students in more than 60 high schools in marginalized communities, predominantly in the Western and Eastern Cape.

The ASF offers the following services to participating students:

    1. Financial assistance to help cover the cost of school fees, uniforms, and stationery.
    2. Grade 9 school subject “Choices Advice Booklet” – see link below.
    3. Grade 10/11 “Career Guidance Workbook” – see link below.
    4. Application guide to obtain funding for tertiary education.

Each school assigns a “Bursary Representative” who assists identifying participating students and administers the program internally.

Continued participation is contingent on maintenance of grades and students must reapply annually. The ASF reviews each student’s reports cards twice a year. A two-step audit process ensures that funds are received by the students and the ASF publishes audited financial statements annually.

The results have been outstanding as almost all participating students’ progress to tertiary education or vocational education and training. For example, in 2023 the ASF had more than 20 learners admitted to the University of Cape Town studying, inter alia, Computer Science, Software Engineering, Marine Biology, Literature, Construction, Genetics, Pharmacy, Architecture, and Psychology.

“No words can much explain the way I am so grateful to be part of the learners who receive money from this fund. This fund really makes some difference in my life and it also encourages me to study more and not give up on my studies. Many children usually have options of giving up on school because of their home situations including financial issues. Giving up at school has never came to my mind because I really know what I want in life and this fund being part of my life makes a big difference”.
Grade 11 – Manyano – Khayelitsha

Quoting the ASF website:

“Our whole intention is focused on the learner, for their care and their benefit. There is no other fund quite like this. Other organizations focus on putting our youth through tertiary education, but this is not possible unless there is a supply of capable students to start with! No student reaches university without first going to school. No artisan begins training at an FET college without having first gone to school. In fact, there would be no students at the tertiary level unless they had successfully completed high school. This is what makes the organization so unique. It is an invaluable service that the ASF renders – we assist, guide, mentor and motivate our youth towards taking responsibility for their schooling and in being better prepared for their further education.”

The Nika Foundation has entered into a “Shared Value Partnership” with the ASF to support our Masiphumelele High School learners.


Career Guidence Workbook (pdf)

African Scholars Fund Website

ASF YouTube Channel