New Education Initiative Calls for Greater Collaboration in Sector

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Wednesday, 14 August, 2013 - 10:15

South Africa’s education system is in a shambles, yet there is hope in innovative new programmes generated in the non-governmental sector. However, coordination between NGOs and government will be crucial to implementing these education solutions

Despite the fact that South Africa’s education system is ranked 140th among 144 countries, there are workable and innovative solutions and funding models in existence that have the potential to be scaled up – but key players will need to step beyond of their comfort zones to get there.
South Africa is home to some of the most innovative and creative education solutions that the world has to offer. Although this is not the headline usually associated with the country’s education sector, widely regarded to be among the least effective in the world, there are many islands of innovation and hope that could point to a way out of the education crisis – if disparate players in the sector can come together and work effectively.
This was the message of a special event held last week at the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Graduate School of Business (GSB) and hosted by the Centre for Education Innovations – South Africa (CEI-SA) that sought to shine a spotlight on what has been going right in education in South Africa, and explore how these successes could be scaled up.
“South Africa is a fascinating case when it comes to education,” said Francois Bonnici, director of the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the GSB, who introduced the event. “Due to the huge challenges in education in the country, many programmes have sprung up to fill the gap and are doing very innovative work.”
“But one of problems is that they often don’t work together – or with government. There is very little data on the size, scope, and quality of educational services offered by the non-state sector and this is preventing the country from capitalising on the potential impact of such initiatives in meeting national education priorities.”
One of the risks of a burgeoning non-state sector is that government may shut them out, which would not serve anyone cautioned Eugene Daniels, former director for Metro South Education District and current consultant at New Leaders who spoke at the event. 
“We need to embrace government not wave them off and blame and shame,” he said. “Government may be fragmented but so is the non-state sector. If we can get organised, if we can show where we fit in on the continuum of cradle to career we have good chance of working hand-in-hand with state.”
The event featured perspectives from the broad spectrum of critical actors working in the education space that CEI hopes to bring together to advance education. In addition to Daniels, Joy Olivier, inspirational founder of IkamvaYouth spoke on the importance of collaboration among nonprofit organisations (NPOs) working in education and David Harrison CEO of the DG Murray Trust discussed the current funding climate for the education sector and gave examples of where funding models are shifting.  
CEI-SA is one of three country hubs working as part of a global CEI effort to increase access to quality, affordable and equitable education for the world’s poor by showcasing and amplifying non-state programmes – initiatives implemented by non-governmental organisations (NGOs), social enterprises, government partnerships and private companies – that have the potential to drive learning in poor communities.
Backed by the Results for Development Institute (R4D) with funding from the United Kingdom government, CEI South Africa is housed in the Bertha Centre at the UCT Graduate School of Business and will run in partnership with BRIDGE, an established and well-respected local education NGO focused on collaboration and sharing through communities of practice.
The recent discussion was the first in a series of events that are planned to help connect players in the education space. CEI is also building an online platform, containing an innovations database of programmes, a research and evidence library with information on global education, and a funders’ platform for organisations supporting non-state education efforts around the world.
“It is like Internet dating for education organisations,” said Olivier adding that IkamvaYouth, which has been hugely successful in improving matric pass rates in poor communities, is hoping to find partners around the world through the CEI to help them scale up their model locally.
“This initiative could assist in finding answers and scaling effective interventions in education because by empowering those organisations and programmes that are already actively improving access to quality education, we are enhancing the possibilities that exist and increasing the impact,” said Emma van der Vliet, coordinator of CEI-South Africa.

But to do this effectively speaker David Harrison said that the CEI network would have to work hard to go beyond the usual: to look at things differently and allow programmes that do not necessarily fit into current ‘best practice’ frameworks to shine. He also cautioned that, in scaling up successful projects it will be crucial to look at the people that are driving these and not just the processes and models.
“In short, we need to be prepared to step outside of our comfort zones, do things differently, collaborate more and take risks if we want to find a way out of our education crisis,” said Bonnici.
Issued by: Rothko PR on behalf of the Centre for Education Innovations – South Africa

Contact details: Natasha Arendorf, 021 448 9457 Rothko PR Marketing Design, 225 Lower Main Road, Observatory, Cape Town.
About the UCT GSB Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship

The Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Bertha Centre) at the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business was established as the first academic centre on the African continent dedicated to research, teaching, dialogue and support of action on social innovations for positive, creative shifts in systemic social issues that change and challenge the rules, policies, technologies, structures, beliefs and institutions. Priority areas include local led solutions by civil society, private sector and public-private partnerships (PPP) in education, health, poverty and inequality in Africa. The Bertha Centre was established in partnership with the Bertha Foundation.

About Bridge

Bridge is an education-focused non-profit organisation in South Africa. Bridge links innovators in education, including representatives from civil society, government, funders, practitioners, teachers, learners, principals, parents, research organisations and unions. It connects them together in communities of practice that promote the sharing of good and effective educational practices so that there can be an increase in trust, a reduction in duplication, a maximising of resources, and an impact on policy so that the education system as a whole can benefit.

About Results for Development Institute (R4D)

Results for Development Institute (R4D) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to unlock solutions to tough development challenges that prevent people in low- and middle-income countries from realizing their full potential. Using multiple approaches in multiple sectors, including Global Education, Global Health, Governance and Market Dynamics, R4D supports the discovery and implementation of new ideas for reducing poverty and improving lives around the world.

- Jane Notten is director of Rothko. 

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