The Trialogue CSI Conference hosted a panel discussion on collaboration in education, on 24 May 2016. The session explored what it takes to build meaningful relationships with key stakeholders, in order to realise impact in a sector as notably challenging as education.
Andile Dube, senior programme manager at Zenex Foundation, made the point that while there’s no “silver bullet” that will fix education, collaboration would be key to success. “Government, NGOs, donors, academics and others will need to put together their minds, expertise, and people,” she said.
R265 billion of the national budget was earmarked for education for the 2015/16 period, and nearly half of the R8.1 billion spent on CSI went to education in 2015, yet the quality remains poor.
Barbara Dale-Jones, CEO of BRIDGE, pointed to an anomaly in South African education – that pockets of excellence are not translating into systemic excellence. BRIDGE aims to address that by bringing together different stakeholders to share working practice and knowledge in key areas in the education system, leading to systemic improvements.
“There is great value in diversity when solving complex problems,” she said. “We have a common goal in mind, but are coming from different perspectives. Through neutral facilitated engagement, we share resources and practice, highlight pockets of good work and create new momentum.”
The National Education Collaboration Trust was set up to promote a collaboration between key players in education to drive development in a sustainable way. CEO Godwin Khosa said that collaboration needs to go beyond resources, to the very centre of Theory of Change. He gave an example: “What we need are disruptors in the education space. Education interventions tend to be supply driven. We need to stir up the demand side of things. I’d like to see small groups of teachers getting together, driving innovation.”
Funders have an important role to play. Lindiwe Temba, group executive head of CSI at Nedbank, said that grant-makers can help improve efficiency and reduce duplication: “It’s up to us as the ones who provide grants to do the due diligence, to see if the need is really there, and who is in the best position to implement.”
Dale-Jones believes that grant-making can be reframed to support collaboration. “Right now it is very vested in competition, with NGOs scrambling for the pot of money. Grant-makers should not only encourage but insist upon collaboration.”
Every corporation in South Africa is concerned about education and how it effects their business, said Dube. The Fees Must Fall protests have highlighted the massive need for funding and solutions. She cautioned against being reactive: “Your efforts must be aligned to something you think you are going to make impact on. You don’t want to be in a position of always just putting the water on a fire.”
Of all the collaborators in the quest for good quality affordable education, government of course has the biggest role to play. “As corporations we can step in,” said Temba, “But you can’t run from the reality that the government needs to have a plan.”