A long road ahead, but the flame has been lit

There is light at the end of the education tunnel, if what the NECT has achieved since its inception in November 2013 is anything to go by, says Godwin Khosa, CEO

“The first year of the National Education Collaboration Trust [NECT] was a roller-coaster ride,” says Godwin Khosa in his CEO’s statement, which opens the NECT’s first Integrated Interim Report. “This is true for the lean staff of the NECT, our counterparts in the Department of Basic Education – both at national and district level – and our colleagues from our management agency and the district Lead Agencies. I believe that what kept everyone involved in the NECT going during the challenging year is nothing other than national pride.”

Nevertheless, that national pride – and a pragmatic determination by all stakeholders to light a candle rather than curse the darkness – is already yielding results that give reason to believe the route ahead will deliver more ups than downs. Transforming the quality of basic education in South Africa is a massive job beset by myriad challenges – but you can only eat an elephant one bite at a time. By starting with the basics – formulating a theory of change and its attendant programme theory – the NECT established a collaboration framework between Government, the Department of Basic Education [DBE], business, teachers and their unions, school governing bodies, parents and learners, education-focused NGOs and traditional, religious and community leaders. Khosa sees the process of providing learning and teaching resources, technical capacity and social capital in the education system as a holistic function, rather than as challenges that can be addressed in isolation.

He believes the NECT to be “a practical way of coordinating Government, private sector, labour and civil society energies in implementing a common programme in a manageable number of districts. We have seen much enthusiasm from the national and provincial education departments and their sister departments to partner in a coordinated programme that includes business, labour unions and civil society stakeholders. Seven targeted national departments are actively involved in the NECT’s web of partnerships.”

To date, the first of the NECT’s five programmes, the District Intervention Programme [DIP], has accounted for over 80% of the NECT’s effort, and is the most advanced. Three-year district implementation plans have been approved by the NECT for four districts in Limpopo and Kwazulu-Natal and two more will be approved soon – targeting a total of 4 362 schools. Lead Agencies are required to identify and engage NGOs and services providers for 40% of the required programme input, which ensures a tight coordination of the work and greater participation of organisations with the requisite expertise.

The DIP is geared towards improving curriculum delivery, enhancing community involvement through district steering committees, improving district support and monitoring of schools, and revamping 409 Fresh Start Schools. The Fresh Start Schools [FSS] Programme, a new approach in large-scale school improvement, champions differentiated, high-dosage interventions in order to achieve swift, in-depth improvements. Renovation of buildings, infrastructure and equipment is already being rolled out in these schools.

While the NECT’s fifth programme, the Education Dialogues Programme, is proceeding well, with the next national dialogue planned on 5 February 2015, the NECT’s other three programmes – regarding systemic interventions, innovation interventions and local project interventions – cannot be implemented until scoping and planning is completed. However, this scoping and planning is already underway. While Khosa acknowledges the strategic and operational risks that could hinder the NECT’s success, not the least of which is funding, he is confident that the continued and growing support of private-sector funding partners – matched rand-for-rand by government contributions – will allow the NECT to address the remaining risks and continue the implementation of all five NECT programmes. Referring to the NECT’s goals for 2015 presented in the report, he admits that “given the short period within which the NECT plans to achieve its objectives, almost all the goals are stretch-goals. It is notable that all the goals are dependent on a web of partnerships that are being negotiated with various organisations.” For the NECT to succeed in enlightening our youth, it is clear, continued commitment to those partnerships by all the stakeholders is vital.

 

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