Founder and Chairperson, IFG Africa
Unathi September was concerned about the low pass rates in subjects like maths and science in township and village schools, especially in the Eastern Cape, where he grew up. He also realised that learners from these areas struggled to pursue studies beyond matric due to them not having enough information about post-school opportunities, so he decided do something about this.
September (26) initiated Inspire Foundation Group (IFG) Africa, which was founded on the principle of bridging the gap between village/township learners and their former model C and private school counterparts. IFG Africa designs and implements programmes that complement the theory taught in class. For example, its entrepreneurship programme, “Junior Apprentice South Africa,” empowers learners with the basic concepts of starting up businesses and funds these business ideas to allow learners to run them practically. The organisation also supports schools through awarding full scholarships to financially needy learners with high academic potential.
Over the past six years, IFG Africa has impacted over 16 000 learners across the country, through its various programmes and assisted by the South African public and private sectors. Unsurprisingly, last year, it was recognised as the best youth-led emerging social enterprise at the Price Waterhouse Coopers/LifeCo/University of Johannesburg Emerging Social Enterprise Awards, and September was also selected for participation in the Top 100 Brightest Young Minds (BYM) summit.
September left a lucrative career in investment banking to focus on growing IFG Africa and running Gradesmatch, an educational technology company aimed at solving challenges faced by learners through research and innovation, which he co-founded. “I’m really passionate about making a difference in our continent, specifically in the education sector. Unfortunately working at a bank on a full-time basis didn’t allow me to do that,” he says.
“This is a global trend amongst millennials: research shows that our generation is really interested in doing meaningful and fulfilling work, more than just [earning] big paycheques.” As part of his education sector research, September also dedicates some of his time to teaching, in order to better understand the challenges facing teachers, as opposed to just making assumptions about this.
“The African continent at large has numerous challenges that I strongly believe will be solved by our generation,” he says. “Find an area that you’re passionate about and play your part in finding and implementing a solution, starting on a small scale.” — Fatima Asmal