Companies in South Africa are putting more money and effort into supporting the education sector. Education initiatives draw the lion’s share of the R8.2 billion that companies spent on social development in 2014. Companies recognise that education is not only a human right, but quality education creates the skills and markets necessary for their own sustainability.
This is the 17th year that Trialogue has conducted its primary research into the corporate social investment (CSI) sector. The research comprises face-to-face interviews with 99 CSI managers in companies and online surveys with 171 NPOs and is published in The Trialogue CSI Handbook, launched on 2 December 2014.
Nearly all (94%) of Trialogue’s corporate respondents supported education projects during the year, up from 89% in 2013. The proportion of total expenditure going to education programmes is growing as well. Nearly half (49%) of all social investment expenditure during the year went to support education, up from 38% five years ago. More than a third (35%) of this expenditure goes to maths and science initiatives, usually at FET and tertiary level.
Education has been the biggest recipient of corporate funding since Trialogue began doing its research 17 years ago. However, companies’ contributions are a drop in the ocean compared to government’s education budget, which was R254 billion in 2014. If corporate funding is to make a difference in education, funders need to identify ‘pressure points’ in the system, where relatively small initiatives can unlock systemic change.
Research suggests that learners need more resources and support in the ECD and foundation phases, particularly in literacy, which forms the basis of academic comprehension and expression. It also shows that almost half of learners drop out of school by grade 10. In light of this, companies should consider supplementing their secondary school science and mathematics programmes with foundation stage initiatives.
Welfare and health also supported
After education, the next biggest sector for corporate support is social and community development, which comprises a wide variety of initiatives assisting the most vulnerable members of our society. Seventy-seven percent of companies support this sector and it receives 16% of CSI budgets, on average. Projects that help orphans and vulnerable children receive a third (33%) of corporate budgets.
Health is supported by 59% of companies and receives 12% of CSI expenditure. Within this sector, expenditure at the primary healthcare level (clinics and other community-based services) is on an upward trajectory: it accounted for 47% of CSI health spend in 2011and now stands at 79%.
More than a third of companies also funded projects in the food security, small business support and/or environment sectors.