Education Minister Naledi Pandor has congratulated the Joint Education Trust (JET) for its enormous contribution towards generating attention to informed innovation and quality performance in education.
She said the birth of the Joint Education Trust (JET) in 1992 was a landmark initiative by the non-governmental organisation (NGO) sector in that regard.
Minister Pandor added that the trust's contribution since more than a decade ago was an unusual characteristic for an organisation that came into being under the cloud of apartheid.
"Few organisations in the early 1990s paid attention to issues of quality research, performance criteria for NGOs and the development of responsive and implementable solutions in education," the Minister said.
The Minister was addressing the JET Education Services AGM in Johannesburg today.
When it was formed, the trust (JET) was spearheaded by the Private Sector Initiative (PSI), a consortium of 20 leading South African companies, with a commitment of R500 million over a period of five years, says the trust's website.
Following South Africa's first democratic elections in 1994, JET began to diversify its services. Thus it began to offer project management services to donors, generally in partnership with the national and provincial departments of education, it said.
Through these programmes, the Trust currently manages funds totalling some R400 million from a variety of local and offshore donors, on projects in the fields of school development, further education, adult education and workforce development, higher education and youth development.
JET currently supports over 400 NGOs working in teacher development, early childhood development, adult basic education and youth development.
The PSI joined forces with community organisations, including leading political parties, labour unions as well as business and education organisations.
This after recognising that although coming from different perspectives, all these organisations shared a common goal, which was to improve the quality of education and to transform the existing system into a more equitable for all South Africans.
"Thus JET was established as a partnership that would co-ordinate the efforts of different sectors of society within an overall framework for fundamental change in the education and training system," the website says.
In addition, said Minister Pandor, JET had been able to provide new members of government with informed data and evidence for more than a decade.
She also said such organisations assisted government in assessing learners in new ways and thus establish scientifically generated and reliable information on the types and levels of national competencies.
"Such information is assisting us in benchmarking our performance and in monitoring and tracking progression towards the nationally set outcomes," she explained.
Ms Pandor added that JET had been in the forefront in the field of assessment.
"This activity has not only been an important element of JET's work in school development, but it has also contributed significantly to the national debates and practices around the sometimes controversial issue of large-scale testing as a diagnostic tool for school performance," she explained.
The Minister also said there was reason to celebrate the committed spirit demonstrated by business and NGOs when they realised that the challenges of transforming society were too huge to be left to government alone.
"One of JET's largest areas of work has been school development. At the present time the organisation is either the lead agent or a senior partner in the management of school development programmes affecting a total of some 3 000 schools spread across all nine provinces, and funded variously by the South African Business Trust, Britain's Department for International Development, the Swedish International Development Agency, and USAID," she said.
She added that the trust's immediate past clients included the Danish International Development Agency and the Royal Netherlands Embassy.