Building Stronger Communities, Building A Stronger South Africa
By Dr Buyiswa Mncono-Liwani – Corporate Services Executive
Low levels of school, college and university achievement is one of the most pressing socio-economic challenges our country faces.
Contributing to South Africa’s socio-economic growth is, and has always been, more than a business imperative for Gibela. It is a moral obligation. Gibela has tackled South Africa’s education and skills challenge by investing R75-million in six community development programmes to improve the lives of the people who live near our manufacturing plant in Ekurhuleni.
These programmes focus on occupational training; bursaries for study at technical and vocational education and training colleges, universities, and universities of technology; apprenticeships; graduate training; investment in research and development; and introducing people to what makes up a “railway environment”.
Also, between January 2014 and March 2020 we added 8 209 jobs to South Africa’s economy during construction and 5 179 during the manufacturing and commercial service.
We are working to improve Maths and Science education at tertiary level, but to get there, schoolchildren must perform well in these subjects in matric – and choose them as matric-level subjects in the first place.
Gibela has spent around R30m in an effort to accelerate the development of young people within the communities around our Ekurhuleni manufacturing plant, benefitting more than 3 460 students and teachers. In the schools where the programme was implemented, teachers’ competency levels increased by 62%, the Science pass rate improved by 25% and Maths by 65%, while the pass rate for English increased to 100%.
Gibela donated 10 mobile libraries to primary schools around Ekurhuleni and Tshwane in 2019 and is planning to roll out 10 more for high schools from April 2021
Research has repeatedly shown that it is the early childhood development (ECD) stage of an individual’s education that is the most critical. We have helped at least 98 ECD centres gain access to government subsidies by helping them to register with the Department of Social Development and sponsored improving the qualifications of 150 of the ECD practitioners working and running these centres.
For those past school-going age, Gibela has sponsored technical skills training in market gardening. The market gardens where we operate employ only people from the surrounding communities, 76% of whom are female.
Gibela has set aside 0.435% of the value of our contract with the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) for improving community infrastructure in the communities around Dunnottar, where our manufacturing plant is, investing in community centres, healthcare facilities and environmental programmes.
Finally, just more than 530 people from local communities have benefited from a work-readiness training programme that has been running at our Dunnottar plant for the past four years and will continue to 2025.
Over the Prasa contract period 19 000 people will be trained on various fields of expertise. Even though they will not all be absorbed into Gibela Rail, they will be able to sell their skills elsewhere and benefit the South African economy in the long run.