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Public-private partnerships are crucial in promoting educational development
Thu, 31 Jan 2013 08:44
Trevor Manuel, Minister in the Presidency and keynote speaker at Rachel’s Angels Trust Annual Lecture held towards end of last year, is also the chairperson of the National Planning Commission’s (NPC) document Vision 2030.
One of the key visions of the NPC is improving the quality of education of South Africa.The document highlights the need for educational reform and states, “a diverse set of private, workplace and community-based providers should be supported to offer targeted work-based training, as well as community and youth development programmes.”
A series of discussions between government and private sector stakeholders, at the recent Rachel’s Angels Trust Annual Lecture, focused on the need for sound, quality education from primary school to Grade 12, and beyond, in order to build sustainable economic growth.
Minister Manuel said that South Africa has the means, the goodwill, the people and the resources to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality.
At a consultative meeting on private-public partnerships for education and training late last year, Mrs Angie Motshekga, Minister of Basic Education, said the question of ‘how the private and public sector should work together to promote educational development’ is crucial.
Quoting from the 2010 Delivery Agreement for Basic Education, Mrs Motshekga said, “There must be a sufficient degree of agreement and commitment among the various stakeholders. Plans must be widely consulted and all stakeholders should be involved.”
She added that private-public partnerships will boost the department’s work in diverse areas such as school infrastructure provisioning, provision of learning and teaching support materials, teacher development, early childhood development and design of education policies.
Spurgeon-Haddon Wilson, project manager of Media24 Rachel’s Angels Trust, Media24’s largest corporate social responsibility project, said that private-public partnership has become a necessity in both improving education as well as meeting our country’s educational objectives.
There are many aspects lacking in schools, such as social and emotional skills, that our government cannot address.
This is where the private sector can play a more integral role. Rachel’s Angels was started in 2007 and ever since has played an important role in the holistic development of both schools and learners.
It provides academic, social and emotional support to learners through various interventions such as winter and spring schools and various workshops on both study skills and self-esteem. Wilson said that these interventions have made a really positive contribution to the participating schools, clearly evident in the academic, social and emotional progress of the learners.
Accountant Riaan Rudman, commenting at the fourth Annual BHP Billiton Skills development Summit in July, said that the education system has various challenges which need to be addressed. “With the lower matric pass rates, matric marks are no longer good indicators of future success as about 1/100 students graduate with a university degree.”
BHP Billiton chairperson, Dr. Xolani Mkhwananzi, further explained that sustainable economic development would only happen in South Africa if government and industry collaborate to build an improved platform for skills development and investment.
BHP Billiton is one of several private-public institutions that has seen the need to improve the quality of science and mathematics at school level.
Dr. Mkhwananzi said his company has identified projects to improve and develop mathematics, science and technology. “We have programmes such as the National Science and Technology Forum, aimed at helping scholars from previously disadvantaged backgrounds gain access to some of the best mathematics and science teachers in the country.
In addition we also have a career centre in Newtown where students can discover study and career options best suited to them.
State-owned PetroSA spends at least 30% of its community social upliftment budget on education and supports several schools in Mpumalanga, Eastern and Western Cape with educational and IT support.
In 2008, PetroSA opened a mathematics and science academy in Mossel Bay where over 300 learners from five disadvantaged high schools in the region are helped to improve their grades.
Many of the learners have subsequently received bursaries from PetroSA to attend universities and technical colleges.
Automotive manufacturer, Mercedes-Benz South Africa, believes that the correct building blocks need to be put in place to increase the economically active sector of the population.
The company focuses on education in all areas, from pre-school to tertiary and adult basic education. The company also provides skills development in the technical fields of engineering and technology thus ensuring the future viability of the automotive industry.
In the Western Cape, the Department of Economic Development and Tourism has developed and implemented a strategic framework for its Work and Skills programme after it was found that young people did not have enough social skills to find employment.
”Educational institutions are failing students, as they are not taught enough social skills to equip them to impress prospective employers,” said department head, Solly Fourie, adding that the skills programme addressed these issues by placing them in internship programmes with businesses after an initial one week job induction and job readiness programme.
This programme is funded through SETA and the students are paid a stipend during their internships. “We found that this programme is quite successful as most of the businesses taking part in the programme are taking the interns into fulltime employment.”
The World Bank says in its education manifesto that the provision of schooling is largely provided and financed by governments. However, due to unmet demands for education, coupled with shrinking government budgets, the public sector in several parts of the world is developing innovative partnerships with the private sector.
Education director, Elizabeth King said the main rationale for public-private partnership programmes is the potential role of the private sector for expanding equitable access and improving learning outcomes.
“In low income countries, excess demand for schooling results in private supply when the state cannot afford schooling for all. By providing demand-side financing and contracting private organisations to provide support services, governments can provide better choices to parents and grant them an opportunity to fully participate in their children’s schooling.”
Dr Oswald Franks, CEO of the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) feels that a unified plan is needed to address the country’s education challenges. “The responsibility of education can no longer be left with government and education institutions alone, and needs the involvement of the community and private sector.”
The council has implemented a programme called Engenius to correct the imbalance of engineering professionals needed for the growing infrastructural development demands in the country.
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