After just over a year in investment banking, Schalk decided to attend to the Xhuma enterprise full time. Schalk is passionate about youth, entrepreneurship as well as the potential that South Africa holds. Investec seconded him to the Channel Islands, United Kingdom, in 2019. It was an eye-opening experience. “When I was abroad, I realised how African I am, I wanted to be in South Africa whereas before I often thought I wanted to be overseas,” says Schalk. Now he has three words for students: Please don’t go. “All the perceived limited opportunities and the disruptions we have gone through as a country actually open up a world of opportunities for new bold and innovative businesses that really assist and create new value for people,” he says. “We need to take into account that our society was built on inequality and that is just not sustainable for anyone. The problems in our country will never be solved by going somewhere else. We need to be part and parcel of a generation that turns the ship around and change the game by bringing our population to a point where everyone is transacting, where everyone has purchasing power.” Schalk Burger holds an Honours degree in Accounting (CTA) from UJ.
“We recognised a market niche when we saw how a lot of our classmates really struggled to find bursary alternatives. There was no central point from which to search and apply and students had to visit many different websites that all required the same information from applicants. We wanted to make it as easy as possible for kids to understand which alternatives they actually qualified for from a funding perspective. We also wanted to create a centralised space where the entire application process to a variety of funding opportunities could be completed. In the process, we also built an entire software development journey for corporates to find talent, to screen and shortlist, and ultimately also to manage the balance from a corporate social investment perspective,” says Schalk. An even bigger problem was that students needed a computer to apply for university or funding, and most students did not have access to such technology. “At the time, universities would, for instance, require that you scan in your report. How are you going to do that when you live in a rural
town? When we really started thinking about the problem and how to solve it, we also realised that we could create an income doing it,” he says. Schalk and Sicelo worked with a team of clinical professionals in developing an artificial intelligence driven career guidance system. As a result, the system provides objective feedback on career alternatives for students and learners alike which enabled them to branch out into the school space to assist kids with making decisions before they enter university. “The tertiary success rate in our country is something like 36%. That shows the vast bulk of students had no access to quality decision making – a process that starts in Grade 9. If you don’t make the right decisions in Grade 9, you may not be able to unlock your career by obtaining the right qualifications later on. Xhuma helps youngsters make quality decisions early on so that when they enter university, they study something that was the result of proper planning,” he explains. The app has a cognitive, personality and interest component that brings everything together and helps pupils figure out what to do by taking into consideration their capabilities and interests. Once students have taken their career assessment, Xhuma will identify bursary options that suit a field of study in their line.
ALUMNI IMPUMELELO 20
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