A decade ago the critical shortage of chartered accountants in South Africa and the embarrassingly small number of black chartered accountants, looked like insurmountable problems.
But since then a multi-dimensional educational initiative called Thutukha has begun to reshape the accounting landscape of South Africa. And the architect of Thutuka, Chantyl Mulder of the SA Institute of Chartered Accountants, attributes the exceptional results to “God’s favour in action.”
Mulder, who is Senior Executive: Professional development, transformation and growth at SAICA, said her biggest ongoing challenge was to raise funds for the educational and support projects that have not only accelerated the delivery of black chartered accountants but have unearthed future financial leaders out of disadvantaged backgrounds. Since its inception in 2002, Thutuka has secured total investment funding of about R500 million.
“I fast once a week and pray daily about these programmes,” said Mulder.
“If we want to change our country we have to educate its people.”
She said that after his appointment in 200, SAICA CEO, Ignatius Sehoole, requested her to prepare a comprehensive strategy for the transformation of the CA profession which was not at all representative of population and gender demographics. As she began the task, her sister, Louise, gave her the Scripture, Isaiah 43, which says:” Fear not, I have redeemed you, I have summoned you by name , you are mine.
When you pass though the waters I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers; they will not sweep over you.
See I have called you by name and My hand of blessing is on you. I have anointed you for the task that is set before you. Fear not I will lead you and guide you. I will open doors for you to walk through them.”
“This is exactly what Thuthuka and all the work I am doing in the country is all about,” said Mulder.
God has opened doors and provided funding for me to do His work!!
When Thutuka was launched in 2002 there were 322 African and 222 Coloured chartered accountants in South Africa. By the end of 2010 these numbers had grown exponentially to 1 845 African and 789 Coloured CAs(SA). There are also approximately 1 700 African and Coloured students in the pipeline to becoming chartered accountants through Thuthuka initiatives. The progress is especially impressive since it takes at least seven years for students to qualify as chartered accountants. Despite these achievements African chartered accountants represent only 5,8% of the profession and Coloureds make up only 2,5%, so there is still a great need to hasten the education of potential chartered accountants in these groups. The racial and gender distribution in the profession is however changing quite fast in the younger age groups.
Through a battery of interrelated projects Thutuka adopts a holistic approach that includes identifying thousands of promising high school learners in disadvantaged environments each year; coaching them in maths, science, English and accounting; getting the best of them into approved universities; mentoring them through their time at university; placing them in jobs; and building the capacity of educators. Thutuka gets about 400 students from underprivileged backgrounds into accounting courses each year with all costs covered. Remarkably, Thutuka students consistently produce academic results that are well above the national university average.
To date Thuthuka has grown from one Eastern Cape-based project to more than 30 programmes throughout South Africa. Eight universites (University of Witwatersrand, University of Johannesburg, University of Pretoria, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, University of Cape Town, Stellenbosch University, University of Free State, and University of KwaZulu-Natal (Westville) offer Thutuka programmes and others are expected to follow.
Thutuka has created a platform of support and partnership between government, the accounting profession, commerce, industry and academia. Despite the tough economic conditions it has succeeded in raising substantial annual funding. With 1550 Thuthuka students currently in the system at R 80 000 per student per annum, this cost alone was R 124 million per year, said Mulder.
She said that from the start of the project she had encountered God’s miraculous favour with funding.
“Firstly , when I started I realised that if you are serious about transformation you need substantial funding. The profession is a membership based organization with limited funds. The first funding proposal I prepared was for the National Skills Fund for R 75 million. The odds were stacked against me as I have never run such massive projects and all told me I would not get that kind of funding.
“I started praying and fasting and the proposal was approved and Thuthuka took off! Another incident is when I had to fund 150 honours students I needed R 10,5 million. My proposals were all prepared and lodged with our relevant SETA. In November I heard that they did not have funding. I went on leave having no idea where I would get this kind of money. Again God intervened miraculously. These are but a few examples.”
In addition to Thutuka, Mulder is also very involved in the development of financial skills within the local government context.
“As the largest accountancy professional body in the country we just cannot sit back and do nothing to assist our government. In addition we have The Hope factory in PE which focuses on the development of black entrepreneurs. We also have another project where we link CA’s up with black entrepreneurs to mentor and guide them. All we do is about developing people and not only CA’s”
Mulder’s work has earned her recognition from various quarters this year. She received the Ellen Kuzwayo award from the University of Johannesburg in recognition of her development work. She was also nominated by the CEO Magazine as the most influential woman in business and government within the financial sector, and she was one of the six finalists of the MTN Boss of the Year competition.