SITFE began in 1965, with a seed capital amount of R2.4 million. From the start of its journey, the Trust focused primarily on providing financial support and resources for disadvantaged students, whose families could not afford to send them to school or university. In particular, interventions for children of the Industry’s resource pool remained at its heart, as well as teaching the teachers who would directly impact these young people.
Operating as an intermediary donor organisation, SITFE’s flagship programme, its Bursary Scheme, was born, and remains the Trust’s core programme to this day. Bursaries were provided to underprivileged students in the then Natal and KwaZulu regions, with an emphasis on those interested in the teaching sector, and on courses designed to train future teachers. The Trustees strongly believed that by growing the number of academically qualified teachers, real and lasting change could be brought to South Africa’s rural communities.
At this time the industry was going through an expansion phase into the traditional tribal areas where there were no individual land tenure rights. A key initiative was to set up resource centres where communities could have a place to meet and support their community structures. This also initiated the education of the emerging farmers, their staff and even farmers sons.