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Is government ready for partnerships in education?

Kagiso Trust trustee

Pearls of Wisdom from Kagiso Trust trustee Dean Zwo Nevhutalu

  1. How important are partnerships and what are the benefits of being in a partnership?

Partnerships amplify the scope of work and each partner brings something unique to the partnership. There is an African saying that state if you want to walk faster, walk alone; if you  want to walk further, walk with others. I believe that if you work with other people, you can walk faster and further.

Partnerships ensure that we produce quality in everything that we do. Each partner brings out the best that they have. By working together, we optimise the strengths of each partner and therefore we are able to upscale our programmes.

  1. Why is it important for government to partner with the civil sector?

It is imperative for government to partner with the civil sector because they both have shared interests in the development of the people. Civil society represents the people and government is a place where people look to when sourcing services. And by working together, the end goal is to address socio-economic issues, address transformation and begin to eradicate poverty.

If government works with other sectors, resources can be scaled. For example, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a wealthy country but they are not able to leverage off that because they are not working together. I have worked there and was privileged enough to see how much potential the country has. Collaborative measures result in benefiting everyone that is involved however because the DRC is not using that, that has actually impacted negatively on the development of their country.

  1. Is there a need for partnerships for education in South Africa?

Definitely. Our history has played an immense role in our education system. We have a huge deficit and backlog in our education system. We need educational skills for our economy. This will only be achieved through a suitable education system. There is still so much that needs to be done and all of that can be done effectively through partnerships. There is a huge inequality in education, Human Resources systems in education need work, infrastructure, you name it and we mustn’t forget the importance of community mobilization. All these need to be addressed, together.

South Africa is a resource- and minerals-rich country. We need to stop having an extractive economy, harvesting and exporting resources with little or no processing in our own country. We need skills and educated people to ensure that we process and grow our economy. Collaborative measures towards education can play a positive role in ensuring that we acquire our end goal.

  1. Why did Kagiso Trust partner with government (Free State Department of Education)

We at Kagiso Trust have made education a priority. We understand that through education, we can address poverty. The partnership between us and the Free State Department of Education was necessitated by the strategy of building sustainable models and understanding that we can reach much further if we team up with government.

We have approached other provinces such as Limpopo, KZN and the Eastern Cape, however the Free State are the only one who saw our vision. We work on the basis that we open an account where all parties in the partnership will put in money and account for every cent. There needs to be accountability from both parties and good systems in place. We actually had to walk away from the other provinces as we could not reach a mutual understanding and had limited resources. Often government is not sure how to approach partnerships and seem to approach the same way they would approach the tender system.

The Free State Department of Education has an impeccable political leadership, which has integrity, can be trusted and is a serious partner who has the same vision as we do. These are some of the qualities we seek in a partner. We understand each other and have maximised our resources in order to maximise our efforts.

  1. How do public-private sector partnerships accelerate development and progress?

The strengths of each partner amplify the work and ensures that we can get the work done quicker. Both parties can bring new ideas and skills. Partnerships can accelerate development and progress. We as Kagiso Trust can build a school in half the time that the government can on its own, and at a reduced price.

One thing we need to understand is that even private schools are somehow managed from a collaborative perspective. They receive government subsidy, have a set frame work, receive a curriculum and are well regulated. Their success comes from collaborative measures as well.

  1. What is the biggest challenge of partnering with government?

Policy framework – numerous uncertainties is the first challenge. The issue of an auditor general is another challenge. There are long processes when it comes to the delivery of services through the private sector. We want government to understand that we do not just want their money; we want to work together, leverage off their money while we bring a matching amount to the table.

Capacity is also one of the challenges for government. I have worked in government and they didn’t have a framework then and still don’t.

Integrity is a major challenge for government. You want to partner with someone who is accountable and will bring in the same amount of dedication with to the plate. When we get into the partnership, we put 50{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} and expect the other party to put in 50{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} and be totally accountable for every cent in that account. No transactions can be done without the knowledge of the other party.

There are other challenges that come with working with government such as bureaucracy, supply chain management, delays and legislation.

  1. What are the critical elements when engaging with government as a partner?

Some of the critical elements include sustainability, the large scaling of resources, pro-poor policies of the government and eradicating poverty through education.

Government is like a beacon of hope for poor people. When they need assistance they look to the government.  When a poor person is sick, they go to a local government clinic, when they want to take their children to school, they take them to a public school and so forth. The government has similar interests to the civil sector.

Integrity is another element. You must budget for some passion. Working for government is not for sissies. You need to be a strong advocate and have thick skin.

  1. What is your take on the Millennium Development Goals when it comes to universal primary education and collaborating to achieve that goal?

South Africa is there already. We have achieved the goal of universal primary education however there is still room for improvement with regards to the quality of education. We still have a high drop-out rate and we do need to work together to ensure that our education system is off good standard.

  1. The responsibility for providing and financing education is immense for government alone, however is government ready for partnerships?

Not entirely. As Kagiso Trust, we are the pioneers of partnerships that actually yield measurable positive results. The government is not wired for that. Our partnership with the Free State DoE has been a great case study for us to show that government and non-governmental organization  partnerships can work.


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