Hope at hand for Education in South Africa
Government, business, teacher unions and NGOs collaborate to create an educational Codessa
In what is a collaboration that could turn out to be more important than even the one that rescued the motor vehicle industry two decades ago, South Africa’s sometime fractious factions of government, the trade unions and the private sector have come together with an objective of turning our ailing education system around. Inspired by the National Development Plan (NDP) which put education front and centre as a prerequisite for progress, it calls for inter-sectoral cooperation to drastically improve educational outcomes in the country
All parties agreed that there is much that can and should be done to provide a schooling system that could become the enabler of growth levels that will pull the nation out of its current jobless growth path. In 2012 Government, big business and the teachers unions held a leadership dialogue that has since gathered steam. Their objective – to collaborate within a framework to create an educational revolution in South Africa.
The 2012 dialogue was attended by some important people – all of whom fervently believed that we needed to take firm and collective action if we were to become competitive as a nation. Attendees included Sizwe Nxasana, former Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Futhi Mtoba, Godwin Khosa, Thobile Ntola and John Maluleke amongst other concerned and influential luminaries and committed educationalists. The result was the birth of the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT).
Under a framework of 20 major issues that were identified for at the dialogue for improvement, and six themes that were established for further discussion and action, The Education Collaboration Framework and its funding trust NECT were established. The collaboration model recognises that each role-player needs to take responsibility for its own work, but that by working together in an organised and collaborative manner, the social partners (business, labour and civil society) could assist the department education to achieve a synergistic improvement that would otherwise not be possible.
Under the agreements that have been reached, funds that are raised by business for NECT are matched by government. This enables an unprecedented and powerful force for change in education in South Africa. And the parties have worked hard to turn the talk into practical action. Already the programme is active in some 20% of schools, and although in its early stages, it is showing what can be done when teachers, communities, unions, NGOs and big business get together with a common purpose.
The six themes that have been identified for action are:
- The professionalisation of the teaching service
- A call for courageous and effective leadership
- Improving government capacity to deliver
- Improving resourcing to create conducive and safe learning environments: teachers, books and infrastructure
- Community and parent involvement
- Learner support and wellbeing
As Godwin Khosa, CEO of NECT says “We have established some tough goals – we want to support government to reduce the number of poorly performing schools from 37% to less than 10%, and to increase the percentage of medium performing schools from 43% to 60% within 10 years. We are already active in 8 districts and reach 20% of South Africa’s schools. We are concentrating on the districts that need us most now, but in time we will reach throughout the system – only then will we rest”
NECT will host its second dialogue on the 13th of June at the University of Johannesburg. Professor Ihron Rensburg, vice Chancellor of the university and one of the participants of the first dialogue, and director of NECT is excited. “We need to measure our progress toward all of our goals, and we also need to ensure that the programme is on course to help the government achieve the educational objectives set by the NDP. To this end it is pleasing that the minister and the deputy minister have both been retained to continue work in their portfolio. Continuity in leadership from Government is crucial”.
The progress that NECT and its members have achieved is impressive. In time, as long as it stays its course, big business and government continue with its funding lifeblood, and the unions, teachers and NGOs deliver on their crucial commitments we may look back and give thanks to what may well turn out to be our educational Codessa.