Rethinking the Culture of Learning and Teaching in SA’s Schools

South Africa (SA) is faced with multiple social challenges, which include economic inequality and unemployment. It is generally accepted that access to quality education at school level is likely to address the many social challenges, including the ones mentioned above. SA’s education system currently finds itself at the bottom of the list when ranked with other countries, mathematics and science competency is even worse. Our education system is widely divided along economic lines, where the rich have access to quality education and the poor are condemned to a poor system of education with less qualified teachers and lack of resources.

There is a need for all sections of society to intervene and rescue the situation. The country spends most of its budget on education, there are countless interventions by both non-governmental organisations and corporate companies trying to invest in the education sector but results are not improving. Maybe we need to start looking at the real challenges which stifle such costly investment on both educational content and technological intervention. There are three strategic areas which should be looked at when assisting our schools to achieve academic excellence; the role of partnerships in educational projects, community leadership participation and educational content delivery mechanism.

Partnership in education

In most cases, corporate companies identify schools to support and spend their social investment money, buying equipment and top of the range content for learners and teachers. However, they turn to overlook the significance of sound partnerships with like-minded organisations on the ground. The desire to collaborate is high but creating the right partnership is tough since the latter should be looked at as a long-term commitment, parties should be accountable, and outcomes must be clearly defined to achieve results. Most community projects are offered by third parties as social service, funded by an outside donor and hope to create change in a particular community. That process involves at least three key parties and the last participant - community - is usually the last one to be recruited in the partnership.

This approach clearly identifies funders as high-stake partners and relegates schools, learners, teachers and communities as mere implementing end-users, as relationships are forged from the top (provincial education department). In the end, the objectives and goals of the project may not be completely aligned with those of the end-user; learners and teachers. The issue of accountability is also not clearly defined, as such partnerships are endorsed by leadership but buy-in from end-users might be of secondary concern, and ownership of the resources and the project itself is not well allocated.

The role of schools and local leaders

Schools should be regarded as important resource to the community and should offer extended services supported by local authorities. Local authorities should play an important role in developing extended services at schools. Some schools adhere to working hours and close their doors once ‘formal teaching’ is over. The inclusion of local leadership is critical not only for buy-in from the community but also to address interfering issues that may hinder the project. Local leaders should be included from the beginning in order to deal with security, food security and transport issues for learners to stay longer at school and attend during weekends and holidays.

Involvement of community leaders can enable creation of shared economic value in a way that also creates value for social progress. If equipment is ‘dumped’ at a school without a responsible person based on site, that project is likely to fail. The champion on site will assist in providing immediate feedback and monitors issues that may affect the smooth running of the project. Teachers have regular jobs, and they normally do not have time for extra activity after school.

Educational content delivery mechanism – Mindset Network innovation

Additional learning tools (and delivery mechanism) should be learner-based and address problematic areas. Learners should be able to directly access quality educational content on topics that are challenging to them. Mindset Network offers high quality video educational lessons on its television channel. Most schools have been equipped with receiving equipment (television set, a decoder and satellite dish) and access to the Mindset Network channel freely.

In addition, Mindset Network has now introduced study guides with an SD card. Each study guide carries over five hours of video lessons, which should be viewed at prescribed times after reading particular topics in the study guides. This is effectively carrying tutors in a pocket where the SD card works on laptop and any smartphone. In that way, learners take control and can determine what educational topics to watch at their own time. This works well during revision studies.

For interaction, Mindset uses social media platforms to discuss educational lessons and topics ahead of broadcast on its educational television channel. Currently, over 70 000 learners joined Mindset LearnXtra Facebook community to interact with both presenters and peers. Mindset website carries, previous question papers for learners to download and print freely, among others.

Mindset Network’s intervention is an attempt to address challenges faced by the South African education system by creation and delivery of high quality educational content through partnership in a sustainable manner.

  • Goodman Chauke is a stakeholder relations manager at Mindset Network. This article is based on his Social Entrepreneurship (Action Learning Project) course at Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS). 

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