Giving rural kids a shot at a good future
Over the past four years, the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) has, through its Whole School Development Programme, spent R70 million on building six new science laboratories, two sets of ablution facilities, two administration blocks, 26 classrooms and two kitchens, and it has renovated 11 schools.
According to IDC CEO Geoffrey Qhena, what sets the IDC’s initiatives apart is that “we don’t just throw money at the problem and run off”.
“We are very concerned about the academic performance of the schools. The ultimate goal is to see the results improve and have the kids go off to university to become whatever they want.”
He says the IDC’s intervention at a school is preceded by an intensive strategic planning session, which aims to get to the bottom of the school’s poor academic performance and management problems.
“We go there and identify the needs of the teachers and the school governing body, and we finance laboratories, halls and media centres. It is a holistic approach. We work with an organisation called Adopt-a-School Foundation. They give us a list of poor schools and we look for the poorest with the most difficult problems.”
After the workshops, Qhena says, the IDC doesn’t just leave the school to fend for itself.
“This is solutions driven. We put pressure on the schools and teachers to perform. We monitor them periodically. And the results are encouraging. In 2014, the average pass rate was 79%. Last year, it had increased to 83%. Bachelor passes are up to 33%, from 29% in 2014. You can see that the intervention is working. More and more kids are passing,” says Qhena.
Investing in education is an imperative, not simply a nice thing to have, he says, adding that everyone who is concerned about the future of the country has to play a role.
“If we want to become a competitive country, the only way is through education. As the IDC, we invest in companies and those companies need a workforce. By investing in education, you are creating that workforce. With education, you can’t go wrong.”
Qhena says the IDC targets rural schools because he wants pupils from poor communities to be able to compete with their counterparts in, say, Sandton and Bryanston.
“When you go and look for a job, they don’t look at your CV and say, ‘oh poor thing, he is from Malamulele, let’s employ him’. That is why we invest in rural schools.”
Qhena says he was inspired by his personal circumstances to get involved in education.
“My dad had a Standard 2, and I think my mum ended at Standard 5. I come from a very poor background, but they helped me get an education, which really is the reason I am where I am at today.”
Nothing makes Qhena happier than stories from principals telling him how the programme has improved their schools.
“Recently, I heard from a principal in Pampierstad in the Northern Cape. He thanked us endlessly for our intervention. He tells us that the absentee rate has fallen for both teachers and pupils. Everyone is motivated.”
– Sipho Masondo