Striving for Sustainable Education in South Africa

South Africa’s economy has under performed in recent years (Nigeria has overtaken SA as Africa’s largest GDP) and the future doesn’t look promising as the current pandemic pushes us into a deep recession. But, how can we ensure a brighter future for all? Sipho Pityana, Chairman of AngloGold Ashanti, and President of Business Unity South Africa, argues that “[a] healthy and educated working-age population is the cornerstone of sustained and inclusive economic success. It lifts living standards and the dignity of people.” That is why it is imperative that NPOs such as The Love Trust provide quality education to some of the poorest communities in South Africa through sustainable education initiatives.  The students of today will be the workforce of tomorrow.

LISTEN: Interview with Silas Pillay on Eden FM.

But what is sustainable education? Professor Marco Tavanti from the University of San Francisco’s School of Management, defines it as a “concept that involves active academic participation to create economic, social and environmental programs improving life standards, generating empowerment and respecting interdependence.” This perfectly describes The Love Trust’s initiatives aimed at providing holistic quality education and psychosocial support to the children and up-skilling teachers.

Nokuphila Pre- and Primary School in Thembisa educates 340 pupils while the Teacher Training Academy trains and develops accredited (NQF) Level 4 and Level 5 early childhood development teachers, qualified to teach Grade 000; 00 and Grade R respectively.  The Love Trust understands that the most valuable resource in the education of children is their teachers. More than 500 teachers have graduated through these programmes. Sadly, considering the financial impacts of Covid-19, this number is likely to decline significantly.

Silas Pillay, Director of Academics at The Love Trust, briefly explains that the school model ensures children receive quality, Christian education through their pre- and primary school years to have well-rounded learners ready to enter high school.

Education though is not only limited to academics but includes cultural and physical activities that promote a healthy lifestyle and talents, as well as moral, spiritual and social studies that help them grow to be responsible citizens. This dedication to providing underprivileged pupils with holistic education has seen one pupil receive a bursary from a prestigious private high school and others joining well-known sports programmes outside of school.

According to the General Household Survey (GHS), conducted by Statistics SA in 2017 and weighted for 2018, 2.7 million children, under the age of six, attend some kind of group early learning programme (below grade R level). These tend to mostly be Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres in the children’s neighbourhoods. To help reach and benefit these children The Love Trust is involved in training teachers from early childhood development centres in Gauteng, KZN, Western Cape and Free State.

Sadly, a report called The Plight of the ECD Workforce, collated by various ECD organisations in April 2020, suggests that 20 000 – 30 000 ECD operators currently run the risk of closure and 118 000-175 000 people, employed in the ECD sector, could stand to lose their jobs in the absence of relief.  Let alone the number of pre-schoolers who won’t have a learning centre to return to. The Love Trust is no different and is more in need of private and public support to continue the good work than ever before, because, if support for these organisations falls apart, South Africa’s levels of poverty and inequality will mushroom, and our social challenges will increase. There is no other community-supported initiative as important at the same scale as the ECD sector.