Getting a place at the university is every student’s dream. However, not everyone is lucky enough to be able to afford a higher education.

Time and again, we would come across postings and confessions on social media on difficulties some students have to face at the university or college. There are those who had to work one to two jobs to support their education, those who don’t have any money to eat at campus or those who are barred from examinations because they can’t afford to pay their tuition fee and more.

Of course, there are various types of educational financial aid available in this country, but not everyone is eligible. And sometimes in the midst of completing their studies, they might come across some hurdles which come with a heavy financial burden.

Now there is a solution to that, thanks to Skolafund.

What is Skolafund?

Skolafund is a local start-up which provides crowdfunding platform that helps deserving less-fortunate undergraduates with financial support, which involves community efforts.

The concept is similar to Kickstarter, which is founded in the United States. But what makes Skolafund unique is it caters only toward higher education funds.

So far, it has helped 155 students from crowdfunded micro-scholarships which amounts to around RM700,000.

What inspired Skolafund?

One of its founders, 27-year-old Tengku Ahmad Syamil Tengku Ibrahim said the idea started when he noticed a Facebook post of an anonymous undergrad student at his university who narrated how he was struggling to pay his university fees and he had to work two jobs just to support his parents’ medical bills.

Tengku Ahmad Syamil, 25, initiated the idea after noticing there were many students who could not afford tertiary education.

That unfortunate situation affected his studies and he had to extend one semester which further piled on his seemingly never-ending financial struggle.

The post which was intended as a place to get recommendations and offers on a third job was instead filled with queries from others asking for his bank account number.

“Then in the following weeks, I started noticing more similar posts by students from less-privileged backgrounds asking for suggestions but received comments by people who want to support them,” he said.

That inspired Tengku Syamil, who was listed in Forbes Asia ’30 under 30′ for social entrepreneurs, to start Skolafund.

“I thought there should be a platform to facilitate this whole process.

“It serves firstly as a platform which allows students to reach a wider audience of people who might be willing to help them.

“Secondly, it acts as a platform which helps sponsors identify and verify students,” he told HE Today in a recent interview.

How does Skolafund work?

There are two main features in Skolafund, “Crowdfund a Scholarship” or “Create a Scholarship”.

In the first feature, students who require financial aid have to run a crowdfunding campaign on Skolafund’s website. They need to prepare their own pitch to promote themselves.

In each campaign, they have to describe in detail their background and why they need the financial assistance.

“Students may raise funds for their fees or other educational expenses,” Tengku Syamil explained.

Meanwhile, for the second feature, any people, organisation, or business may create their own self named-scholarships.

The Skolafund.com website helps less-unfortunate students pursue their education dreams.

Transparency

The best thing about Skolafund is that it provides a safe space for the community to contribute for a good cause.

Skolafund will ensure that all campaigns are verified with each campaigner’s university or college to validate their authenticity.

Successful funds raised for tuition fees are given directly by Skolafund to the respective university or college so as to ensure the money goes to the right person.

Other than that, a 30-day period is set for each campaign to achieve a target funding amount.

If by the end of the 30-day period the target is not achieved, the campaign is deemed unsuccessful and the money will be returned to the sponsors of the campaign.

Hurdles and setbacks

Just like any business, Skolafund also had to struggle in its early beginnings. Tengku Syamil said many were skeptical of the idea.

“Some doubt that the community would support the students while some doubt the team behind Skolafund because all of us were still undergrads when we started this.

“It was hard to get any form of seed funding to start Skolafund due to this and we had to put in every little saving we had to develop the first version platform of Skolafund.com.

“Fortunately, we received the support of the community and got a few students funded with our first platform,” he said.

Tengku Syamil said that another setback they faced was the fact that many students and university faculty members had no clue what crowdfunding is and how it works.

“We received a lot of applications from students who thought that Skolafund gave out money to students. They had no clue how to set up and run a crowdfunding campaign.

We had to do a lot of educating and direct guidance. In fact, there are still many higher education students today who do not know what crowdfunding is,” he said.

With that problem in mind, they have now upgraded the platform to make the educating process automated and included features in Skolafund.com that educate students on crowdfunding before they start a campaign and while they run their campaign.

“There’s still a lot to be done to increase awareness and educate students on crowdfunding. Internationally, crowdfunding has been used to fund a lot of innovation & impactful projects.

“If more students become aware of crowdfunding, more impactful & innovative projects can be funded here in Malaysia too,” he said.

Future plans for Skolafund.com

Tengku Syamil said that in 2018, their team would like to introduce Skolafund and crowdfunding to more students in higher education.

Other than that, they also want to win the support of corporations and businesses to fund students’ micro-scholarships and projects as until now all the campaigns on Skolafund.com have been co-funded by individuals.

In the future, they would also like to introduce more ways for students to acquire funds other than crowdfunding and for them to be able to manage their funds and utilise their funds efficiently.

Wildan Zulfikar, 24, is part of the Skolafund.com team.

Finally, they also aspire to introduce Skolafund in other developing countries in Asia that face similar issues.

Who are the brains behind Skolafund?

What’s interesting about Skolafund, which started in April 2015, is it was founded by a team of four young and passionate undergraduates.

Tengku Ahmad Syamil, 27, and Wildan Zulfikar, 24, are students at International Islamic University Malaysia while Faruq Rasid, 27, is currently studying at National University of Singapore. The team is recently joined by Aisyah Shamsun, 28, who is doing her Masters in Education at International Islamic University Malaysia.

Although the path to initiate Skolafund was tough and filled with obstacles, they were determined and resilient in making sure that it is successful.

“We believe that no one should be deprived of quality education just because they cannot afford it,” as stated on the Skolafund website.

They aim to make higher education affordable and accessible to those who deserve it.

To learn more about Skolafund or to set up your own campaign, visit Skolafund’s official website https://skolafund.com/