As South Africa struggled its way into the 1980s, the Sugar Industry and SITFE continued with their mandate of pioneering development and change. Bursaries for Black students had increased to R60 000 per year, and R150 000 was sponsored towards a tertiary facility, Mangosuthu Technikon. Near Empangeni, farming courses for African women were introduced at Natal’s Agricultural College.
In 1981, the focus grew to include the quality of Science education in South African schools, vital for the growth of the industry and its communities. Through a School Science Project in KwaZulu, Science kits, and professional guidance was provided to students and teachers.
Farm workshops were also established, providing training to employees of cane growers by instructors who visited farms in mobile units. In 1982, SITFE’s contribution to bursaries was R70 000, with over R700 000 invested in Black students since the Scheme’s inception. Sponsored Black, Coloured and Indian Sugar Technology students from the Sugar Milling Research Institute completed their examinations in 1984.
In 1985, bursary contributions increased to R110 000. Through their Industrial Training Centre at Mount Edgecombe, and a further R20 million, SASA aided 450 rural, unemployed individuals with skills development. In 1986 the Fundikhono Training Centre, unique for its time, opened its doors with the objective to assist disadvantaged adults with employment skills. SASA’s first scholarship apprentice, Richard Myeni, was employed as an electrician trainee, opening the way for other Black students wishing to follow a technical career.
This year also saw the start of the New Era Schools Trust, a pioneer for non-racial education, and their School Development Project, providing four schools to children of all races in the Tongaat area. Uthongathi (“a place of significance”) marked one of the first multiracial and co-educational schools to be aided by SITFE, providing learning facilities for roughly 70 students from Grades 7 to 9. Additional schools were planned for the Eastern Cape, Western Cape and the Transvaal regions.
In 1987 SITFE provided R50 000 to the University of Zululand as the fourth of five installments, assisting in the development of the KwaDlangezwa campus near Empangeni.
Annual bursary contributions increased to R190 000 by 1988, with 200 African students supported in teacher training colleges in the Natal and KwaZulu regions. Sakhelene (“we are neighbours”) Education Project was launched in 1988. The objective was to raise funds for school buildings, facilities, equipment, teacher training and scholarships in the Inanda, Ndwedwe and lower Tugela areas.
With a continued focus on the improvement of education in rural communities, 1989 saw the major rehabilitation of Aldinville Primary School in KwaDukuza, where nearly 1400 Black students were being educated. During the 1980s, South Africa experienced many outbreaks of cholera, mainly affecting rural communities. This decade saw SITFE sink approximately 800 boreholes in the Natal province, all of which were around schools, providing at-risk children with clean drinking water.