A new survey by the National Business Initiative (NBI) has found that over 61% of the participating large companies spent between R2-million and R35-million each during the 2010/11 financial year supporting public education.
About 70% of the larger firms allocated funding to learner support programmes, while 65% and 63% also supported teachers’ professional development and the provision of equipment respectively. Over 60% assisted schools with the development or provision of learning and reading material.
The Sanlam-sponsored indicative survey, released this week, found that nonfinancial support included introducing senior learners to the workplace, followed by supplying volunteers to mentor learners and school staff, and supporting school nutrition programmes. Another favourite among the large corporations was volunteering staff for clean-up campaigns.
Looking to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the NBI report indicated that 53% of the smaller firms spent less than R50 000 during the year, with another 27% spending between R50 000 and R100 000 supporting education.
Allocations by SMEs included 35% providing equipment and 21% supplying professional support for financial management. Twenty per cent of the SMEs contributed towards infrastructure, with another 18% supporting learner support programmes.
Nonfinancial contributions from SMEs included 17% introducing senior learners to the workplace, 14% supporting school nutrition programmes and publicising career opportunities, and 11% providing staff for staff/learner mentorships.
Most companies cited national priorities, such as improving educational outcomes and tackling poverty, as the motivator behind the corporate social investment (CSI) supporting education. Others undertook educational support programmes to deal with skills shortages.
The findings of the survey revealed that large companies were increasingly starting to support pre- and primary schools, as recent research pointed to the importance of early childhood development, NBI schooling director Marianne Scott told Engineering News Online.
Large company support was relatively high for secondary schools at 78%, followed by primary schools at 72% and preschools at 65%.
She added that the survey provided a platform to examine the CSI challenges, such as lack of progress and accountability, difficulties rolling out set strategies for funding and inefficient use of funding. The findings would also allow a renewed focus on how to mitigate the challenges to ensure the full impact of the support provided.
However, there was a requirement for boards to get more intensely involved in the projects by becoming more aware of whether their contribution made a difference, and increasing their focus on where to invest and where more attention was needed to ensure the higher impact of their support.
Recognising the significant role that business continued to play and could play in supporting education, the NBI and its member companies embarked on a Learning Partnership Network journey in 2010.
“The Learning Partnership Network, with Sanlam as leader and founder funder, is geared towards enhancing the collective impact of private sector investment in schooling,” said NBI CEO Joanne Yawitch.
The programme focused on strengthening the relationship between the private sector, government and other partners with the aim of improving the quality of education in South Africa.
“We believe it is our collective efforts as corporates, government, NGOs and other stakeholders that will achieve the most significant impact in the improved quality of education,” added Sanlam Group acting executive head of corporate affairs Lebo Monyatsi.