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Unlocking The Doors To Successful CSI In Education


There are several notable examples of companies that are managing to find the key to impactful, sustainable CSI education investments. Dale Hes investigates.
Image: The Insikazi Maths Proficiency programme - Uplands. Image: The Insikazi Maths Proficiency programme - Uplands.

When deciding where to invest Corporate Social Investment (CSI) allocations, the education sector has become almost the default choice for South African companies. Research by CSI consulting firm Trialogue found that, out of 100 CSI managers and 171 non-profit organisations, 94 per cent supported education projects during 2016, accounting for 48 per cent of total social investment funding.

Sometimes though, what appears on the surface to be an honourable commitment to a worthy cause is nothing more than a once-off handout or a way to fulfil mandatory requirements, yet there are those who are bucking this worrying trend, managing to establish successful and sustainable CSI education investments.

Addressing social issues

Alan Rehbock, head of sales for CSI education company Sangari Education, explains that in order to be truly successful, “CSI education projects need to take a holistic view of the many social issues that stand in the way of children and youth receiving a proper education”.

Pioneer Foods has paid careful attention to this aspect with a programme that focuses on providing the daily nutrition that children need to concentrate on their studies.

The Breakfast Nutrition Programme is Pioneer Foods’ flagship CSI project, providing a nutritious breakfast to more than 26 000 children in 30 schools from the Western Cape, Northern Cape, Limpopo, the North West, KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State, every single day of the week.

“How can we expect our leaders of tomorrow to reach their full potential when they spend every day worrying about their next meal?” asks Nico Moloto, stakeholder and sustainability executive at Pioneer Foods.

Moloto says that poverty, unemployment and the severe drought affecting large parts of South Africa are all contributing to an estimated one and a half million children under the age of six suffering from chronic malnutrition.

“As one of South Africa’s leading food companies, and the biggest player within the breakfast category, it is our responsibility to focus our social investment where it has the biggest impact in alleviating our nation’s hunger on a sustainable basis,” Moloto points out.

Participating schools have been extremely grateful for the programme, which has resulted in a noticeable difference in attendance and performance in the classroom.

“We’ve been praying for just such an intervention for a long time, as most of our learners do not have breakfast before coming to school and many of them used to feel sick and very weak every    morning,” says Nonhlanhla Chonco, principal of Nichols Junior Primary in KwaZulu-Natal.

“Learners’ attendance has improved drastically – they just love to be at school and are even arriving early now. Every morning they are so excited when eating their breakfast. Parents, teachers and all our stakeholders are applauding this programme.”

Turning the focus to teachers

In rural Mpumalanga, Momentum has partnered with a private school – Uplands College – to focus on the professional development of teachers.

The Insikazi Maths Proficiency programme encompasses 34 schools and 26 000 learners. The programme has facilitated the professional development of 15 maths teachers at Further Education and Training (FET) Level, 15 at high school phase and 29 at foundation phase.

For Uplands and Momentum, a specific focus on one school circuit has ensured maximum impact.

“We work in one school circuit only, at leader, educator, and learner levels. We are committed to long-standing relationships with our programme participants. This consultative, collaborative approach has resulted in a number of successes that are proven over time,” explains Uplands Outreach director Nicky de Bruyn.

On a student level, 18-year-old Manqoba Nyatsi is a perfect example of what can be achieved through the successful implementation of CSI programmes. When Nyatsi was enrolled in the Momentum-funded “Learners for Excellence” programme in 2012, his baseline mathematics mark in Grade 10 was 24 per cent. In 2014, Nyatsi matriculated with an 84 per cent maths distinction and three other subject distinctions.

“I would have never been able to get where I am without being given the opportunities that the programme gave me. Many learners are not in the position to make use of opportunities. It allows you to make your dreams a reality, as long as you work hard and be proactive,” says Nyatsi, who is currently studying towards a bachelor’s degree in FET Phase Education.

Building foundations for the future

Cape Town-based print manufacturing group Novus Holdings has successfully implemented a particularly wide-reaching CSI programme, called the Future Foundations Initiative.

The programme focuses on education, skills development, and community engagement, but with the idea of sustainability at the forefront.

“The driving principle is an approach of giving ‘a hand up, not a hand-out’. This is essentially how we as a group approach all social investment projects and sets this programme apart from all others,” explains Novus Holdings’ sales and marketing executive Peter Metcalfe.

Since 2015, the initiative has assisted 53 CSI projects, awarded 94 bursaries and directly impacted more than 100 000 people in 30 communities.

The sustainability of Novus Holdings’ interventions has been reflected in the Empagqabani Education Academy based in Khayelitsha. The programme assists Grade 8 to 10 learners to improve their grades in all school subjects (with a particular focus on maths and science) through provision of equipment, teacher support and donations.

“The Academy is now self-sufficient. We support relevant initiatives that make a difference and provide learners with the right tools to empower themselves, so they can then go on to teach and empower others,” Metcalfe says.

With their CSI contributions, companies have tremendous power to bring about positive change. In the education space, measuring and ensuring long-lasting impact is vital.

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