As South Africa entered the new millennium, SITFE began to focus on broadening its initiatives and its overall impact on education in the country. The Bursary Programme, now more than 30 years old, had grown to accommodate four different types of bursary schemes, including Teacher Training, University, Agricultural College, and Skills Development. SITFE continued to maintain this project as a key focus, providing a large portion of the Trust’s funds to the Scheme each year.
In 2000, following the success of an earlier roll-out initiative, SITFE furthered its involvement in the EQUIP programme. This enabled the EQUIP Executive Committee in Entumeni to expand its outreach and include the training of teachers and personnel from rural schools in several outlying sugar cane growing regions. The following year the Ikhulubone Trust, an NGO involved in the training of creche facilitators, was provided with much-needed financial support. This initiative equipped facilitators with the skills needed to qualify as Early Childhood Development (ECD) practitioners, and ultimately manage their own ECD sites. Through this, young rural children would be provided with a safe and conducive environment in which they could develop skills needed to enter into and cope with Primary School.
In 2002, SITFE assisted the Thembalethu Home-Based Care Project, which had been in operation since 1999. The project was owned and run by members of the Nkomazi West community, who aimed to provide emotional and material support for families affected by HIV and AIDS. It also educated the wider community and provided home-based care, orphan care, leadership training and a community garden project.
With a continued focus on providing educational resources, 2002 saw SITFE partner with Penguin Books to launch the ‘Books are Fun’ Programme. Through this initiative Penguin donated a large number of new fictional and non-fictional books, in the form of large library book collections, to schools involved in the EQUIP programme. In 2003, the Trust became involved in the Training Academy for the Disabled, allocating funds for 12 students from rural sugar areas. The Academy provided these students with quality courses and skills development in fields in which they could successfully compete in the open job market.
In 2004, SITFE contributed to a partnership initiative to establish the Izingolweni Resource Centre which linked with the EQUIP and Rally to Read schools, providing learners from these schools with a central site to develop practical skills. The Trust agreed to allocate R80 000 towards the building costs of the centre. Throughout the years, SITFE maintained a focus on the development of Science and Mathematics, key subjects not only to the Sugar Industry, but also to the progress of South Africa itself. In 2005, the Centre for the Advancement of Maths and Science (CASME) received funding from the Trust to provide Science and Maths resources to schools in the Umzumbe District of KwaZulu-Natal. Through equipping a local Centre with relevant, portable resources that surrounding schools could make use of on a loan basis, teachers and their respective students had much-needed access to Maths and Science education.
In 2006, enabled by support from the Trust, the Institute for Partnerships between Education and Business (IPEB) rolled out a capacity-building programme in 5 schools on KwaZulu-Natal’s South Coast. This programme focused on the development and training of school governing bodies and senior management teams, continuing SITFE’s mandate of growing and enabling quality educators in the province and country. The following year Madwaleni High School, on KwaZulu-Natal’s North Coast, was assisted in implementing a Seedcane Project. With its location in the heart of sugar country, this programme aimed at promoting the culture of sugar cane planting, growing and harvesting within the local community.
2008 saw SITFE continue to broaden its initatives, with the development of an art project in two schools in the Ugu District, a sugar cane growing region of KwaZulu-Natal. This provided a practical, hands-on art experience and included the installation of an art studio run by the learners themselves, supported by an artist-in-residence.
In 2009, the final year of what was an expansive decade for both SITFE and South Africa, the Trust sought to grow the impact of its flagship project, the SITFE Bursary Scheme. Through the start of the Induction Programme, Bursary recipients were now exposed to the various components and activities of the industry. Partners and stakeholders were also educated about the contribution of the industry to rural communities, particularly in education and training.