Rural schools in South Africa are the most disadvantaged mainly due to the lack of basic infrastructure, experienced educators and low learner motivation. These circumstances limit rural schools to reach their full potential.
Education receives the largest portion of the Minister of Finance’s budget each year. In 2015, R 191.1 billion was allocated to basic education by the National Treasury. According to Trialogue’s 2015 18th Edition, investment by corporates (through their Corporate Social Investment) in education has shown a steady increase of 47% in CSI spend. Education is the key contributor to the prosperity and growth of the nation as well as to the success of the private sector, which rely heavily on appropriate skills from the youth. It is therefore, critical that government, private, and civil society find innovative ways to collaborate and provide sustainable and measurable solutions to improve the education system especially in rural areas.
Kagiso Trust (KT) in partnership with the Free State Department (FSDoE) embarked on a schools development programme through the Beyers Naudé Schools Development Programme (BNSDP) and the partnership has yielded positive learner performance and results in the Thabo Mofutsanyana District which saw the district being the top performing district in the Free State province for three consecutive years (2013 to 2015).
The partnership between the FSDoE and KT began in 2007 and ended in 2015. 2016 was used as a consolidated and existing period. BNSDP schools received consistent averages above the national and provincial performance levels. Whilst there was a drop in the national results, the programme continued to make overall impact with results and quality improving. At the start of the programme in 2007 there were no schools performing at 100% and to date there are eight schools in the Thabo Mofutsanyana District who received 100% matric pass rate in 2015.
What makes the BNSDP model unique is its holistic bottom-up approach which looks at:
- Political and administrative support of the programme
- Match funding with the Department of Education
- Alignment with the department’s strategy to improve schooling by 2025
District/ circuit section:
- Identification and selection of district (s) at the selected province with the provincial department
Intake of schools:
- A needs assessment is done to determine district and individual school status in all aspects of the school and district functionality and the degree of model customisation of interventions
- School selection according to feeder, phased in over two years (with varying support)
- Team building and school retreat workshop with the district, school SGB and learner leadership
- Introduction to schools selected to participate in the programme
- Curriculum and social development
- Socio-economic support
- Leadership and governance development
- Incentive Infrastructure based on school performance above performance benchmarks
- Basic infrastructure if it does not exits (ambulation facilitates classroom windows and roofs, desks and chairs etc.)
- Additional incentive infrastructure based on schools performance and the ability to sustain the performance (computer lab, library, science lab etc.)
- Teacher incentive when learner performance exceeds the minimum threshold
Sustainability beyond intervention:
- Programme evaluation
- Project closure and reporting and impact assessment
- Sustainability planning
- Lead Teacher capacitation for communities of practice
- Peer learning and school-based youth clubs
- School leadership circles
However, the eight-year partnership provided many lessons learnt from collaboration. The Trust will use these lessons when entering into a partnership with the next province and these include:
Systematic barriers to implementation
- There are system barriers beyond the scope of the programme these barriers could include overcrowded classrooms e.g. 148 learners for one mathematics teachers in a school.
Quality of Teachers
- Remote areas are not able to attract good qualified teachers due to urban migration.
- Teacher shortages manifest with teacher often having to teach subjects that they are not qualified in.
- Poverty and inequality was a major challenge with some learners reporting having to do a part-time work after school.
- Lack of self-esteem among learners as well as a general lack of discipline.
- Language as a medium of instruction – learners wanted to respond in their mother tongue to questions posted in English.
- Social challenges such as bullying, teenage pregnancy and child- headed- households.
Knowledge gained from the implementation of the programme
Several challenges were faced and as a result, strategies emerged and the below lessons were learnt:
- The education district’s role during the intervention is critical as it is the recipient of the intervention programme, a committed district will ensure a levelled playing filed and play a supportive role in the intervention programme
- Stakeholder commitment is key with union leadership involved from the beginning
- The programme works well when implemented in collaboration with the community which yields advantages further than programme’s expectations. The use of retired officials as local coordinators also proved to be effective as their credibility and relationships encourage buy-in from the community.
According to Yoyo Sibisi, Kagiso Trust Education & Civil Society Programmes Head, said “We are indeed proud of our schools that have not only performed well but have also shown growth. As the Trust exits the Free State, we are confident that the principals, teachers, parents and learners will continue using tools and knowledge gained from the programme for sustainable development in their schools”.