Yesterday, we celebrate International Day of Education, a day celebrated around the world because education, especially quality education, is a powerful tool to break the cycle of poverty that so many children face, yet access to quality education is severely limited in poor South African communities. To address this issue and bridge the gap, The Love Trust has been providing quality education for those who are most vulnerable through strong partnerships with parents, other non-profit organisations (NPOs), and corporates. We spoke with Silas Pillay, Director of Academics at The Love Trust, about his experience leading these efforts within their programme based in Thembisa.
How would you define quality education? Quality staff, learning numbers conducive to teaching and learning, availability of resources for eLearning, textbooks and the right infrastructure are key aspects that differ between state-funded schools and NPOs such as Nokuphila School. Leadership quality is an additional factor influencing educational outcomes while school culture and ethos – termed ‘the hidden curriculum’ – provides a further distinguishing element.
What sets Nokuphila apart from public schools in terms of quality?
Focus on ECD: At Nokuphila, the importance of Early Childhood Development (ECD) is recognised and prioritised. This ensures that our learners benefit from consistent growth opportunities to reach their full potential with regards to knowledge and learning capabilities; something many public schools struggle with due to them inheriting learners at various developmental levels. Our approach offers a strong foundation for our learners, from the early years of ECD through to reception and primary school. This enables us to holistically prepare them with vital skills such as literacy and numeracy, so they are well-rounded individuals ready for their upcoming education journey.
Leaving no one behind: Micro enterprises such as preschool owners and daycare centres account for a substantial portion of Early Childhood Development learners. However, if new policies are implemented from the Department of Basic Education without their involvement, there is an increased risk for unequal professional standards. Therefore, Nokuphila works to ensure ECD programmes remain on par with current policy developments so that no student or person falls through the cracks.
Psychosocial support: Our learning environment is designed to provide holistic support with a comprehensive blend of educational and psychosocial interventions. Our school-based support team consists of an experienced remedial teacher, an occupational therapist, as well as a dedicated social worker – all available to ensure every learner succeeds beyond the traditional classroom setting. Something you won’t find in most public schools across South Africa.
Focus on partnerships with organisations and parents: Although partnering with other organisations isn’t unique to NPO schools like Nokuphila, we understand the potential of partnering with other organisations to drive our growth and sustainability. However, equally important is having parental engagement to unlock tremendous opportunities for us – a magic bullet that often remains underestimated!
Giving hope to the hopeless: We create a foundation of hope and opportunity for those in need, providing them with an actionable head start to transform their lives into something better. By joining us as social change agents we empower people to take control of their future, rather than simply be passive recipients of charity or opportunities. We open up possibilities which many thought were lost – inviting these individuals and families on board our mission for lasting impactful change.
Our vision for tomorrow – The government is taking steps to professionalise the Early Childhood Development sector, which has an invaluable role in ensuring that no child gets left behind. We cannot be complacent – often there are only small pockets of excellence across our individual schools and sectors. It’s time for us to broaden our horizons beyond these single successes and look at how together success can be achieved nationwide.
If there were more schools like Nokuphila it would undoubtedly be transformative. Obviously, notwithstanding challenges, but when you mobilise communities (that’s what you’d be doing with this type of model where you have a home-school partnership), that’s where you start seeing change. It’s amazing when you have like-minded people join together; what that synergy can bring about.
Donations from generous, caring donors are paramount in enabling us to achieve our goal of education being a central pillar for societal and economic progress. We celebrate those who have already contributed immensely while appealing to potential long-term funders. It is essential that we maintain stable investments so that disadvantaged communities don’t see their pursuit of learning terminated prematurely.
By leveraging the pooled resources of corporates and NPOs, we can create meaningful change across communities. Working together as collaborative partners, rather than NPOs merely seen as recipients of Corporate Social Investments, allows us to draw upon each party’s specialist expertise – taking strategic action for greater collective impact. We must strive beyond simply ticking a box on corporate social responsibility programmes; this is an opportunity to engage in calculated efforts towards lasting reform.
South Africa requires your assistance to enhance its educational system. By banding together with NPOs and NGOs they can provide the necessary support for those areas that are otherwise unreached or unbudgeted – rural townships and under-resourced centres. Let us join forces and continue making a positive impact on our nation’s education!