There are many efficient, well-organised and impactful NGOs in South Africa that focus specifically on improving education. They fill the gaps left by our education system and assist learners, especially in disadvantaged communities, who without their support, have little chance of ever finishing school and pursuing higher education or even having a career.
These NGOs do not always receive enough support from their communities, government or corporate companies to make a real impact and, owing to a lack of funding, they have to shift their focus from their life-changing and crucial work to that of fundraising efforts.
One of the best ways to secure funding is to partner with corporate CSI departments that can ensure a regular flow of funding, so that the NGOs can get on with what they do best – helping others and making a difference.
Just like these life-changing NGOs in the education space, African Bank is passionate about education. They accordingly seek partners that make a difference within the early childhood development (ECD) space, as well as organisations that support disadvantaged learners with career guidance services.
Their main aim is to fund programmes run by these NGOs that are aimed at improving literacy, numeracy and social skills in ECD centres, while providing much-needed training to ECD owners and practitioners. They also support organisations that help learners with career guidance to make the right choices for a successful future.
According to Kennedy Dembetembe, Corporate Social Investment Head at African Bank, these two areas often do not receive the attention they deserve.
“ECD centres are often not well regulated, and there is little control over what type of education pre-schoolers receive. Some pre-schools let children play all day and very little learning takes place. Their goal is not to prepare learners for school, but rather to give them a safe place to stay while their parents are working.”
He says when children start primary school, they should have a basic understanding of numeracy, literacy and social skills. Without this their education journey is seriously at risk, and they will most likely not be able to keep up with the school curriculum. “It is crucial that all ECD centres help to prepare learners for their school careers and there are really good NGOs assisting with this in disadvantaged communities where quality education is often lacking. Some of the NGOs we partner with include Afrika Tikkun and the Love Trust Foundation, both of which have programmes to address the development backlogs in pre-school children.”
African Bank also supports organisations that offer mentorship and career guidance. This is conducted through workshops across the country. During these workshops valuable information is shared with high school learners about the South African labour market, subject choices, higher education and various career paths. “Unfortunately not enough effort is put into making sure that learners choose subjects and careers that are relevant for our country and this is where we try and add value,” says Dembetembe.
African Bank would like to see more programmes that expose learners to real-life career experiences. For example, a privileged school in Johannesburg makes it compulsory for learners to spend at least one week shadowing someone at their place of work. Even with career guidance, it can be difficult for learners to make the right career choice because they often have no idea what their dream job will be like in real life. The more learners are exposed to what their lives might be like once they leave school, the more they will be able to make informed choices.
Dembetembe believes the future of education worldwide will be technologically driven. “We need to embrace the move to digital platforms as quickly as possible and make sure that our schools are equipped with Smart Boards, tablets and computers to make the sharing of information easier, better and faster.”
South Africa needs to invest in the physical infrastructure of schools to ensure that all students in schools are safe and have access to an adequate learning environment. Secondly it needs to invest in technology and put learning in the hands of learners. “There is nothing more inquisitive than a young mind, and with access to a world of information the potential to learn is infinite,” concludes Dembetembe.