Shanduka Foundation and Kagiso Trust’s holistic model for improving education

Sharing intellectual property for the greater good of education in South Africa is the big idea behind the newly launched partnership between the Shanduka Foundation, Kagiso Trust and the Free State Department of Education. On 12 March 2013 these organisations signed a memorandum of agreement that will see them harnessing their respective well-established credentials as activists in education to develop a model that can be replicated in schools throughout the nation.

The collaboration between these three parties is a natural outcome of their shared vision and passionate commitment to education as the primary route to reducing poverty and empowering the marginalised in South Africa.

The Shanduka Foundation’s Adopt-a-School programme has already invested R97 million in 167 schools in all nine provinces as well as in Lesotho and Mozambique. Amongst its many interventions, it has renovated infrastructure, trained 795 stakeholders and educators, and implemented eye-testing, providing spectacles to over 719 learners. Adopt-a-School has also benefited more than 390 local small businesses and created 3 797 temporary jobs.

Similarly, Kagiso Trust’s Beyers Naude Schools Development Programme (BNSDP) has already reached 167 schools in the Thabo Mofutsanyana district of the Free State. BNSDP enrolment for matric exams in 2012 amounted to 3 412 learners, of whom 2 828 obtained a grade 12 pass, a 80.93% pass rate. Almost 1,000 of these candidates passed with university exemption, opening up opportunities for a future that they might not have had without this support.

Championing these interventions all the way, the MEC for Education in the Free State, Tate Makgoe, has provided the fertile soil for these programmes to take root. He has enabled and facilitated the implementation of the BNSDP in his province over the past six years. Now the MEC has embraced the new opportunities that will come out of the 3-way partnership and will put his money where his mouth is by matching the funding inputs rand for rand. This will see a joint investment of R400 million, with the Shanduka Foundation and Kagiso Trust each spending R100 million and the department providing the balance of R200 million. The result will be the largest investment in education yet undertaken by a public-private partnership.

The partnership has very clear objectives:

Proceed with a five-year plan to develop an integrated and holistic model that successfully and sustainably improves the standard of education in poor rural schools, reaching both primary and high schools. Draw on the strongest elements of both the Adopt-a-School Foundation and the BNSDP and pilot the model in over 350 schools in rural Free State. Share the model with private sector and government stakeholders and promote its implementation in all the provinces.

This is an initiative with a grand vision. However, it is also an entirely practical and realistic vision, based on our past experiences, our failures and successes, and the proven results of our past work. We have learned that for effective teaching and learning to take place, we have to look at the whole school and the whole child. It means that children need to be fed and receive proper health care; that basic infrastructure such as running water, electricity and ablution facilities are just as important as classrooms with desks and chairs or libraries or science labs; that sound governance and management, including parental involvement, is crucial; and that the culture of learning must be developed and nurtured through motivation, incentives and reward.

Usually when companies or private organisations implement educational programmes, the emphasis is on teacher training, curriculum development, learning resources and learner support. But that is just half of the whole. Also, support should start at the beginning, in Grade R. Only in this way can we hope to achieve the best possible results and make a lasting difference to the lives of the children in our programmes.

The most profound and most significant learning that both Shanduka Foundation and Kagiso Trust bring to this partnership is that sustainable change in our schools can only be achieved by working together with government. The private sector cannot possibly reach all the schools in need across South Africa, but government can. While a private intervention may bring about change in only one school, government can ensure that those principles are carried through to other schools. This is why our partnership with the Free State Department of Education will be pivotal to the success of the proposed new model.

Together we will set targets, implement strategies, provide services, build infrastructure and measure results. Together we will put in place systems and capacity that will bear results long after the end of our 5-year intervention. The whole that we aim at achieving will be far greater than the sum of its parts.

It’s an exciting and visionary plan that will see unprecedented transparency and sharing of learnings on the part of the Shanduka Foundation and Kagiso Trust. There will be no room for egos or for turf conflicts. This has to be a venture that shapes the future of corporate social investment in education. It has to inspire all private sector players and government stakeholders to join forces in order to most effectively meet South Africa’s education challenges.

At the Shanduka Foundation and Kagiso Trust we have a reputation for being doers – we like to get things done. Now, together with the leadership of MEC Makgoe, we are ready to do more.

Donné Nicol Executive Director of Shanduka Foundation.