Bridgette Oppenheimer and Mary Slack dishing out funds to needy causes. Picture: ROBERT BOTHA.
Bridgette Oppenheimer and Mary Slack dishing out funds to needy causes. Picture: ROBERT BOTHA.

THE Oppenheimer family on Monday announced a R1bn endowment to their memorial trust, to be spent on funding the education of promising individuals in South Africa.

This is the largest endowment since the trust was founded in 1958. The injection means the trust will have about R2bn in it by the beginning of next year.

Mary Slack, the chairwoman and a trustee of the trust and daughter of the late mining magnate Harry Oppenheimer, said the trust would develop a strategy next year and start spending the money.

"This is a large amount of money for the trust. Since my family sold its stake in De Beers, we have wanted to get more involved in spending on education," Ms Slack said.

In the past, the trust had given money for bursaries to promising pupils needing to go to primary school, secondary school or university. It had started to show more interest in postgraduate studies recently.

"In the past we put money into underprivileged schools and the like, but we have moved towards individuals," Ms Slack said. "It just became quite expensive. Many private schools already have mixed demographics in terms of the people attending them now so we are looking to focus on furthering specific people more than groups."

She said the trust might consider funding Master of Business Administration degrees for the first time. O verseas education was being looked at. "We recognise how expensive it is to study overseas," she said.

Responding to the announcement, businessman Bobby Godsell, a trustee, said: "The additional resources now available will make the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust one of South Africa’s largest and most prestigious public benefit organisations. It will be possible to provide increased funding to many existing programmes as well as extend our reach in education and related fields, and the board will be discussing strategy to chart a new path.

"On behalf of the trustees, I would like to express our enormous appreciation to the Oppenheimers for this large and significant donation, which clearly underscores the family’s commitment not only to improving the quality of education but also to finding solutions to some of SA’s many challenges," he said.