The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) is mandated to promote industrial development and job creation in South Africa and the rest of the African continent. Since a strong skills base is key to building a robust and globally competitive manufacturing sector, the IDC’s corporate social investment (CSI) activities are centred on growing the potential of the country’s human capital by supporting education, skills development and entrepreneurship. In 2013, the IDC set out to deliver holistic and sustainable solutions to schools. It established a long-term partnership with the Adopt-a-School Foundation, which uses a whole school development model to address the academic, infrastructural, social and security environments in ‘adopted’ schools – some of the most under-resourced and marginalised in the country – to ensure that they are conducive to excellence in teaching and learning. Since then, the IDC has invested R100 million into 20 high schools and 10 primary schools across the country.
Whole school development
There are a multitude of education interventions underway across the country. However, piecemeal and fragmented interventions are likely to have limited impact, especially in the context of an otherwise ‘dysfunctional’ school, in which the capacity to integrate resources into teaching may be constrained. Unused school libraries and state-of-the-art computer labs being used as storerooms are not uncommon outcomes of an approach that fails to consider the organisational capacity of the beneficiary school.
The whole school development model, which aims to strengthen the overall functionality of schools, recognises schools as whole organisational systems that, with the necessary management and community leadership, can realise the ultimate goal of improving learner outcomes. The incorporation of learners’ overall wellbeing into the school interventions is another hallmark feature of the whole school development approach.
Adopt-a-School uses a four-pillar framework to define a well-functioning school. The objectives of the programme are structured around these and can be summarised as follows:
- Leadership and management to facilitate excellent school management processes with visionary leadership
- Infrastructure and resources to provide adequate, well- maintained school infrastructure with appropriate resources
- Curriculum and co-curriculum development to improve the levels of teaching expertise and achieve consistent high academic performance
- Learner wellbeing and community involvement to facilitate a safe school environment that is attentive to the social wellbeing of learners and enables the involvement of parents in the school community.
* Based on the Adopt-a-School Foundation model.
Adopt-a-School uses criteria in each of these four areas to categorise schools according to their level of functionality, as ‘exceptional’, ‘functional’ or ‘dysfunctional’. This is a structured way of diagnosing what type of intervention is most appropriate for the school. Typically, ‘dysfunctional’ schools struggle to cooperate with development partners, whereas schools that are ‘functional’ are able to work with development partners to improve learner outcomes.
Prioritising school leadership
The whole school development model places leadership and management at the centre of school improvement. The model aims to ensure that ‘adopted’ schools have the necessary management and community leadership to support an environment that is conducive to excellent teaching and learning. This includes the school governing body, the school management team, the principal, teachers and even senior learners through learner representative councils.
The rationale is threefold:
- By strengthening and capacitating school leadership, the system is strengthened and can be leveraged to raise the functionality of the school in all areas of development.
- Capacitating leadership is more likely to lead to outcomes that will be sustained, even once the programme comes to an end and donors exit.
- Involving school management in the change process is more likely to enable a tailored approach that addresses particular challenges that a school may be facing.
As such, leadership was the first intervention at all the high schools adopted by the IDC. For most, this entailed participating in leadership and strategic workshops – a process that none of the teachers or school leadership had been exposed to before, and which was rated highly by all participants. The workshops also proved to have a positive effect on the morale and attitudes of school management staff, with one staff member saying that “after the workshops, the teachers were so eager and enthusiastic, it was incredible, you could see such a remarkable difference”.
The project review underscored the importance of a cooperative and constructive relationship between the school and the department of education in each circuit. Where the school’s leadership has a good relationship with the local education officials this enables better functioning of the school.
Significant investment in infrastructure and resources
The IDC provided significant infrastructural and resource support to its adopted high schools, including the construction of 43 classrooms; the renovation of 35 classrooms; the construction and renovation of science laboratories at 18 schools, along with the provision of equipment and teacher training; the construction and upgrading of ablution facilities at eight schools; the construction of two feeding scheme kitchens and two nutrition/dining centres; the construction of administration facilities at three schools; and the renovation of computer rooms at seven schools.
An external review of the programme found that these facilities were well used. In some schools where science laboratories had been built, after-hours use of the facilities was extended to neighbouring schools. Most schools also reported that infrastructural developments had improved overall school pride.
Supporting literacy to unlock learner performance
Despite broad consensus that school interventions should be holistic, the reality of limited resources means that all school needs cannot always be met. At the initial leadership and strategic workshops, Adopt-a-School consults with school leadership and management teams about their schools’ most urgent needs and the interventions that they believe should be prioritised. Adopt-a-School also conducts annual check-ins with the school management teams, about their requirements for the reprioritisation of projects.
It is also important to incorporate best practice into the programme design, even if this means making adjustments along the way. Notwithstanding increasing emphasis on the importance of early childhood development, the national discourse on education tends to emphasise matric pass rates, and pass rates in maths and science in particular. As a result, and in the case of the IDC-adopted schools, there is a tendency for school interventions to focus on maths and science-related interventions for grade 11 and 12 students. However, there is mounting evidence that, after poverty, proficiency in the language of instruction is the most significant factor impacting learner performance.
While working with its adopted high schools, the IDC identified the need to start interventions in earlier grades, in order to improve matric results. Based on this, in 2015, the IDC adopted 10 primary schools in which it has done a lot of work in literacy programming, including the construction of libraries. This was a departure from the IDC’s approach with its adopted high schools, at which maths and science were prioritised. However, in the spirit of the whole school development approach, the IDC recognised the importance of addressing needs in language and literacy at a foundational level.
The IDC will continue its partnership with Adopt-a-School, exiting some of the schools and adding two additional schools to the programme. Where necessary, the IDC will conduct additional leadership workshops. Through these workshops and other mechanisms (such as MOU agreements and stakeholder meetings), they also plan on assisting schools to strengthen their relationships with the Department of Education in each circuit.
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Source: Trialogue Business in Society Handbook 2018.