Much still needed to fix education

Former Minister of Finance and chairperson of Old Mutual, Trevor Manual, WCED director in Business Strategy and Stakeholder Management, Warda Conrad, chairperson of Umalusi Professor John Volmink and Chair of Cape Wine Auction, Raymond Ndlovu speaking about educational challenges at the PfP meeting in Newlands.

Only 30% of the schools in the Western Cape in 2019 are well-functioning according to Partners for Possibility (PfP).

The non-profit met with over 200 people who come from business and educational sectors at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa in Newlands on Monday June 10 to speak about the future of education in the province.

PfP pairs business leaders with school principals to help improve educational outcomes in schools. They are calling on various businesses and organisations to work with the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) to form a coalition.

“The Coalition for Quality Education in the Western Cape is a grouping of people who are committed to working together to improve education outcomes in schools across the Western Cape,” said founder of PfP, Dr Louise van Rhyn. “Educating our children is a societal problem, and the WCED cannot carry this responsibility on their own.”

The WCED director for business strategy and stakeholder management, Warda Conrad, wants to work on the vision that there should be quality education for every child, in every classroom, in every school in the province.

“If we leave one child behind, the blood of the children that get shot by gangsters or use drugs will be on our hands,” she said.

In the schooling system in the province, there are 1.1 million pupils, 33000 teachers, 1500 schools, 58000 pupils using transport and 471000 pupils are dependent on the school’s feeding scheme.

Ms Conrad said there are around 25000 new pupils entering schools each year and in order to keep up with the demand, the WCED should be building at least 25 new schools a year. She said they only managed building five new schools last year and that is only the building, they still need teachers, books and infrastructure.

Ms Conrad has highlighted a few challenges in the education system in the province. She said the province has “the worst teacher pupil ratio in the country”, which means that the 30% of the schools that are well-functioning are getting bombarded with applications, which causes a division in the education system.

Ms Conrad said nearly 50% of the pupils depend on their two meals a day from the feeding scheme and then when they go home they need to wait until the next day to get to school for their next meal.

She said there are even pupils who fall to the floor when they hear fireworks, thinking that it is gunfire and most of them do not even have a bed to sleep on when they get home from school.

Ms Conrad acknowledged that there are things the WCED can control like integrating technology in school and leading a systematic change which focused on developing the teacher, the school as an organisation and the pupil as a holistic child, though they are asking for a collaboration among organisations to put their resources together to create lasting change in education.

Former Minister of Finance and current chairperson of Old Mutual’s board of directors, Trevor Manuel, said there must be an acknowledgement that the current education system is broken. He said learning is difficult for pupils coming from broken communities. Mr Manuel shared five fundamental changes that could have an impact on education in the future.

He said there should be a campaign to support reading so that every child by the age of 10 should have at least read 100 books, which includes producing books in children’s mother tongue.

There should be a commitment to retrain teachers to upgrade their skills to provide a better benchmark for teaching.

He said there should be an investment in parents in providing content for them to help them transcend.

There should also be more strength in the school governing body to provide accountability and oversight to schools as there is an overlap in social problems.

“The presence of parents at the oversight meetings can help take accountability seriously,” he said.

The last fundamental change that Mr Manuel mentioned is to trumpet the PfP in training principals.

“As business we must recognise that we need education, we need a big campaign, we need to deal with the crisis, it can’t be deferred,” he said.

Some principals who are currently in their one-year programme with PfP are feeling encouraged by its impact. Principal Kevin Velensky of Portia Primary School in Lansdowne has been working with their business leader on this programme since last Au-
gust.

“We looked at a business plan on how to improve the school and are also looking at improving infrastructure and administrative systems,” he said.

Mr Velensky said his business partner already assisted with helping the school’s future prefects by holding a camp for them.

Heinirich Bowers from Mount View High School in Hanover Park started working with a business partner on the PfP programme in February.

“We’re currently focusing on the morale of teachers and attitudes of pupils towards their education and on improving our school results,” he said.

Dr Van Rhyn said they would like to see more collaboration and more people getting involved with education. She also outlined a goal that their organisation would like to assist in getting – 80% of the schools in the province to be well functioning by 2029.

To get in touch with Partners for Possibility, call 021 913 2054 or email pfp@symphonia.net