ANC deputy president and tycoon Cyril Ramaphosa says big businesses must dig deep into their coffers to help the government improve public education.
Speaking at a dinner event on Monday night in which Shanduka Group, his multimillion-rand company, announced a R100-million donation to a programme aimed at turning rural schools around in the Free State, ruling party deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa challenged businesses to pump "serious money" into schools.
Shanduka and Kagiso Trust each donated R100-million to the programme, which will target 400 schools in Botshabelo, Thaba Nchu and areas across the Fezile Dabi district over the next five years. The Free State's education department matched the group's investment, allocating a further R200-million to the programme.
A total of R400-million will benefit the schools through infrastructure improvement, as well as development of management skills and teachers' curriculum knowledge. Education experts from the Kagiso Trust and Ramaphosa's Adopt-a-School Foundation will implement the programme.
"We want to see companies committing real serious money, as two companies that are black-owned have committed money – real money," Ramaphosa said.
He said he would soon "lead a campaign to get as many companies as possible" to invest in public education.
The government cannot turn around education on its own and needs more private sector partnerships, Ramaphosa said. Shanduka and Kagiso Trust are investing in education because "we've arrived at a conclusion that government cannot do it alone". "Sometimes the government is not able to provide everything."
It's our business
At times, the government fails to provide all needed resources and funds for important school management improvement projects, he said.
"Sometimes the government is not able to provide spectacles to children who need them. Sometimes the government will not be able to send principals to Wits University for [leadership development]."
Ramaphosa added: "Many children drop out of school because they don't have basic resources like transport, uniform and books ... The state of education in our country today is something that should be our [business people's] business."
But the "challenge to education extends way beyond availability of resources", he said, adding there was a need to inculcate a "sense of accountability to teachers and principals".
Teachers needed to be skilled more as many were battling with teaching the reformed syllabus. "The curriculum keeps changing almost after two years. We should be able to address this," Ramaphosa said.
Funds were a serious problem for provincial education departments, Tate Makgoe, Free State education minister, said at the dinner. Over 80% of his department's R10-billion budget goes to salaries and investments towards developmental programmes are welcome.
The province's 36 000 teachers, majority of whom were "products of bantu education" and battling to teach, would benefit from a curriculum knowledge improvement project, said Makgoe. "It's important we help teachers, instead of making them feel bad and stupid."
Achieving 81.1% in matric results last year, the Free State was the third best performing province in the country after Gauteng and Western Cape. "We're instilling a new culture [to our pupils and teachers], that we can get a 100% [pass rate]," Makgoe said.