Closing the gap: driving education home

In the last 20 years huge strides have been made to uplift and empower women. Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga said in her International Women’s Day speech earlier this year:  “Indeed, South Africa has received international recognition for these efforts and is currently ranked 16th in the world by the Global Gender Gap Index – a framework used by the World Economic Forum to capture the magnitude and scope of gender-based disparities among countries in the areas of economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.”

But this was not always the case. Historically, a large segment of South Africa’s female population was excluded from obtaining a quality education, and therefore denied the opportunity to meaningfully and equally contribute in the workplace. In modern times girls are included in the educational system but in many ways they are still subject to unacceptable levels of inequality.

Children live in a society where gender-based violence is widespread, where basic health services such as flushing toilets and running water might be lacking and resources are a constant struggle.  This is especially true in instances where girls are in part, or wholly, responsible for taking care of households where parents work away from home – often caring for younger siblings. It becomes increasingly obvious that our children, and particularly girls, are still to a greater or lesser extent trapped in a hangover from bygone years.

Because it’s the case that a good-quality education unlocks entrance to tertiary institutions and career opportunities, it is one of the only ways to ensure that underprivileged girls in difficult circumstances can escape the cycle of poverty.

Educating for equality: the NDP and education

The National Development Plan (NDP) recognises that education is a core element in eliminating poverty and producing an equal society[i].

In accordance with the NDP’s vision, all South Africans (boys and girls) have the right to a quality education – where no one is excluded and those living in poverty or with disabilities are given special consideration. Recent statistics reveal that 39% of children in South Africa live only with their mothers, and in 2013 there were 96 000 child headed-households in the country – with Kwa-Zulu Natal having the highest number of the total group.

While the aim of the NDP is to educate all South Africans, girls are in a position to reap the largest benefit from a good quality education. Research evidence points to the fact that girls are increasingly benefitting from a solid education, with the amount of girls who have a matric growing by about 12% in recent years, versus a 3% increase for boys[ii].

According to UNESCO, educating girls will have a huge positive impact on society, which means that achieving the NDP’s objectives will ultimately help South Africa’s girls [iii].  How will achieving the NDP’s education objectives help South Africa’s girls? UNESCO lists the following among the factors that will be mitigated as a result of education:

  • Educated women are less likely to die in childbirth;
  • Education of girls can lead to fewer child deaths;
  • Educating moms improves their children’s nutrition;
  • Girls with higher levels of education are less likely to become pregnant under the age of 17;
  • Education is the key to lower birth rates;
  • Combatting child marriages: educated girls are less likely to marry at a young age;
  • Education narrows the pay gaps between men and women;
  • Educated girls are more likely to find work.

It is clear that in order to effect meaningful societal change that is characterised by gender equality, we have to educate our girls. Minister Motshekga further asserts that, “A key role in building women’s capacity is good-quality education that encourages independent, critical thought, fosters self-confidence, and provides young girls with a vision of their future.”

What is not immediately apparent is the extent to which education continues at home, beyond the classroom. Education at school is only half the battle won, without guidance at home girls are less likely to have the tools to persevere through life’s challenges.

While the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT) works to deliver the NDP’s promises and transform education in schools, education at home remains one of its biggest challenges.

Beyond access to education

In today’s democratic South Africa, girls face bigger challenges than access to education: we need to ensure that girls are psychologically and socially nurtured. It is important that we create an enabling environment, where girls have the guidance they need to thrive. This is where parents, caregivers and communities have a vital role to play. Moreover a new generation of holistically well educated women will play an increasing part in reforming education going forward.

In a response these challenges, the NECT seeks to mobilise communities and parents to take a more active role in education. As the home front is largely populated by women (as primary caregivers) they have the greatest potential to contribute the most to a culture of active parenting and home education.

Charlene Deacon, JET Education Services Senior Manager says, “Women can broaden the way in which society understands education. Many parents have absconded from their role in the education of their kids and women (being the majority of teachers and caregivers) are in the best position to point this out and make the case that parenting does not rely on literacy.”

By being available to girls who need guidance, or even just helping with school work, they will create an environment where girls are better equipped to manage everyday challenges.

Mary Metcalfe, Managing Director of PILO observes, “Young people are struggling with new challenges which are often quite alien to the previous generations: they grapple with sexuality, petty criminality, drugs and alcohol abuse, the digital divide, and high levels of hopelessness brought forward by the prospect of youth unemployment and the cycle of poverty.”

If education takes root in home life from their parents or caregivers, girls will be better able to navigate these struggles.

As the majority of our student body and teaching force is female – women taking up the NECT’s call for active parenting and social mobilisation, will be in an excellent position to effect societal change beyond the classroom.

What remains is for women to realise their power to transform not only education, but society at large. When women step up in aid of other women, they will, as a consequence, uplift society.


The minister concluded, in her speech: “Let us grab opportunities and shine… We carry with us the burden of millions of other women out there who do not have the opportunities we have. Therefore, if you can rise, bring someone with you.”



[ii] STATS SA General Household Surveys, 2002-2011




In a report released today, the Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE) explores the financial viability of low-fee independent schools charging fees below R12,000 a year. These schools are growing rapidly and currently educate an estimated 250,000 learners across the country, providing access to good education where there are no, insufficient or dysfunctional public schools in disadvantaged communities.

The research was a response to the increasing interest of investors and donors in these schools: “Are they worth investing in?”, “Are they financially sustainable?”, “What is needed to ensure they offer quality education?” 

CDE analysed and modelled financial information from 23 registered, ‘stand-alone’ low-fee schools  and four chains of low-fee schools to determine the key factors and requirements that influence their financial viability - defined as a school’s or chain’s ability to generate sufficient income to meet its operating expenses and other financial obligations.

“Our modelling points to the positive potential of low-fee independent schools to provide affordable, good schooling to poor communities on a sustainable basis. Two types of financially viable, hypothetical low-fee schools were identified: a ‘no-frills’ primary school that offers a good but basic education; and a secondary school which delivers quality schooling through innovative teaching and learning methods,” explained CDE’s Education Programme Director, Dr Jane Hofmeyr.

The findings show that the state subsidy is critical for the survival of low-fee schools. Their main sources of income are school fees, state subsidies and, in a few cases, donations.

Both the hypothetical schools would only be viable as stand-alone ones if they were not-for-profit and thus able to qualify for a state subsidy. They would need to charge fees of R11,700 a year (in 2013), obtain a 40 per cent subsidy, and enrol some 600 to 700 learners by their third year of operation. They would then be able to repay a loan of some R30 million at 5 per cent interest over 20 years.

Economies of scale make a significant difference to the operational costs of low-fee schools. If stand-alone schools were part of a chain of three schools with centralised administration, they could reduce costs and become more viable.

In the case of for-profit low-fee schools, a chain of 10 schools with centralised administration would be viable if every school charged annual fees of R11,700 and enrolled some 600 learners. This would enable it to cover the finance costs of a 20-year loan of R30 million at 5 per cent interest.

“We found that the schools charging fees below R6,000 a year were typically survivalist, living from month to month, not knowing whether they would be able to meet their financial obligations”, Hofmeyr said. However, many of these schools had existed for a number of years, even though they did not meet the requirements of the models, which were based on conservative cost assumptions. “These schools survive because they provide good education, although they are located in basic rented premises, are poorly resourced and pay low teacher salaries.”

CDE cautions that potential investors need to take into account a number of challenges and risks in establishing and operating low-fee schools. For example, teacher salaries must be adequate to prevent high staff turnover. Changes in the government regulations, new compliance costs and bureaucratic inefficiency in registering or subsidising a school can cause major financial problems.

To enable low-fee schools to become more financial stable and provide affordable, quality education to poor communities, CDE recommends a number of reforms by government and interventions by the private sector.

Government:   By simplifying the maze of legislation affecting independent schools and developing more supportive policies that still ensure sufficient accountability, government would reduce the heavy compliance costs of schools. Increasing the state subsidy for not-for-profit low-fee schools would enable them to charge lower fees and serve poorer communities, at a lower cost to government.


Private sector:  There are multiple ways in which investors and donors could strengthen this sector, explained Hofmeyr: through public policy engagement for regulatory reform; establishing new schools and helping existing ones to expand with affordable loans; funding key components of their quality and financial viability, providing technical expertise; and funding research which will support quality improvement, innovation and sustainability.


“In the context of a struggling public schooling system, the development and expansion of independent schools serving poorer communities is a positive trend that needs greater support and an enabling policy environment,” concluded Hofmeyr.

The full report and Executive Summary can be obtained from the CDE website:


For further information:

Buhle Hlatshwayo: 078 340 2772

Dr Jane Hofmeyr: 082 784 9190

Recognise and reward the teachers - 2015 Stars in Education Teachers Awards

Do you know of a teacher that is doing great work in your community?

 Encourage them to ENTER the 2015 Stars in Education Teachers Awards

Someone that goes the extra mile for her/his learners by doing extra curricular projects within a school or community? Most of these teachers are running these projects with limited budgets and do this in their spare time.  Does this project have an impact in your school or community? It is time to say thank you to these teachers and reward them for their hard work that makes a change in their community and in the lives of others.


All you have to do is, you have to encourage them to enter the Stars in Education Teachers Awards on 


Pearson SA, MindsetTV, MetroFM and Argo would like to hear of these teachers that are making an impact!


View the current entries that have already entered and vote for your teacher!



Recognise and reward teachers for the essential role they play in society

By This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , CEO of Argo


How come every conversation about education starts with “the problem in education is….”?  If we take a step back, then we can see education as an opportunity, to inspire our children to love learning, so that they can grow into what they were meant to be. And if it’s all about leadership and inspiration, then why are we focusing all our energy on what content needs to be taught in the classroom, while we miss the essential element – the teacher, who determines whether children love learning or lose interest as more content is shoved down their throats?


How do we recognise great teachers who inspire others?


We all remember a teacher, who made a difference in our lives, who inspired and shaped our future – but very often we don’t have the confidence to thank the teacher, before we leave school. So, now you have the chance to make an impact. Nominate a great teacher, or ask your children which teacher they love and help them to nominate this teacher, so that we don’t lose these great teachers. The Stars in Education Teachers Awards is designed to recognise those teachers, who are great role models in the classroom and their communities and who inspire others with their actions. They understand that:


"Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire." —William Butler Yeats


The fire is starting on social media

The Stars in Education Teachers Awards has just been launched on a range of social and digital media platforms so, join us in encouraging teachers to believe in their value, and entering great teachers. October is the month for celebrating teachers, so it’s now that we can say thanks to that special teacher that made a difference in our lives, by honouring teachers out there, who share their light with others, who go beyond filling buckets, to inspire learners to be more than they thought they could be. If you need any inspiration, watch some of the previous winners on youtube, as they share what the campaign has done for them, their learners and their communities.


It’s about working together to improve education

The Stars in Education Teachers Awards is supported by social leaders: Pearson, SACE, SADTU, Mindset TV  and MetroFM, who understand that we need to work together to support the Government and social transformation. The impact of the campaign extends far beyond a competition. Leading NGO’s who do grass roots work with the campaign receive media support from Argo and leading brands make social investment decisions, based on their exposure to the winning teachers. Pitso Kekana, the head of Corporate Citizenship for Samsung South Africa explains that:


“Had it not been for Argo and the Stars in Education Teacher Awards, Samsung would not have found the School located 80 kilometres from Polokwane’s city centre where the 2013 Stars in Education Teachers Awards winner, Dungile Maponyane teaches. Samsung has donated a Smart Classroom, equipped with 40 tablets, a printer, eBoard and more to Bathokwa Secondary.  The handover of the Smart Classroom takes place during October, to celebrate teachers”.


“Winning the 2013 Stars in Education Awards is one of the greatest opportunities I ever had in my life. It has opened doors of success and recognition for the DTMSC project.  Educators it takes effort and passion to do extra work to help the community in either way, do it, face the challenges and never quit” says Dungile Maponyane.


If you would like to make a difference in education, connect with Argo to explore ideas on how we can achieve quality education together.

ENTER on or follow us on Twitter: @StarsInEdu


Contact Argo:

Visit our website
Call: 021 865 2813

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