Giv­ing ru­ral kids a shot at a good fu­ture

CityPress - - News -

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

Ge­of­frey Qhena

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