Facilitating global quality education

African EduWeek. (Supplied)

African EduWeek. (Supplied)

However, South Africa is home to some of the most innovative and creative education solutions. There is a way to address the needs of the system if disparate players can come together and work effectively. This is the vision behind the Center for Education Innovations.

Access to quality education for all is a global imperative, however, providing this is fraught with complexity, especially in low-income countries. 

While a handful of innovations capture global attention, there is little information on the scale, scope and impact of the numerous organisations and social enterprises that make up the non-state sector in education. 

To meet this need, Results for Development Institute (R4D) launched the Centre for Education Innovations (CEI) comprising global hubs with a focus on developing countries, namely India, Pakistan, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. 

These hubs aim to identify innovations in their own and neighbouring countries, and produce analysis of trends, policy and successful programme implementation. 

The CEI South Africa hub is hosted by the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Cape Town Gradu-ate School of Business. The Bertha Centre was established in 2011 in partnership with the Bertha Founda-tion as the first centre of excellence in social innovation in Africa. 

The centre links robust research and academia with practical interventions. “We need to be prepared to step outside of our comfort zones, do things differently, collaborate more and take risks if we want to find a way out of our education crisis,” said Dr François Bonnici, founding director of the Bertha Centre.

Sharing best practice and facilitating collaboration is central to the work of CEI through the creation of a virtuous cycle in which innovative programme managers provide comprehensive, up-to-date information on their activities; monitoring and evaluation strategies as well as results to be accessed by funders and other potential partners to facilitate collaboration. 

More than 90 South African initiatives are currently profiled on the CEI website. CEI also serves as an up-to-date, comprehensive resource for researchers and policymakers. It aims to enrich the debate on what works and what does not work in education through systematically identifying, analysing and connecting the full spectrum of education innovations, including programmes and policies implemented by non-governmental organisations, private non-profit and for-profit entities, government or in partnership with government. 

Molly Blank, a documentary filmmaker and author, recently working with Jonathan Jansen, vice chancellor of the University of the Free State, to create a short-film series and book, How to Fix South Africa’s Schools, says about CEI:  “There is an incredible amount of innovation and activity in education and CEI is tracking and harnessing innovation to improve education across the board. Their work on building collaboration across institutions is one crucial element in improving schools and it is something that the principals that I met are already trying to do.”

Joy Olivier of Ikamva-Youth, an initiative hugely successful in improving matric pass rates in low-income communities, -echoed this belief in the importance of CEI’s work: “It is like internet dating for education organisations. I am hoping to find partners around the world through CEI to help us scale our model locally. Collaboration brings real learning and this can be frustrating and uncomfortable but that is where innovation happens.”

As CEI recognises the importance of celebrating the success stories, extrac-ting the lessons and facilitating partnerships, the African EduWeek 2014 is a pivotal event on the CEI South Africa 2014 calendar. The South African hub has brought together a cohort of innovators to discuss some of the challenges facing schools in low-income communities. Experts, researchers and implementers will be exploring new funding models for the education sector; creating schools that are ‘nodes of care’ for learners; supporting out of school youth, narrowing the gap between education and employment and providing a solid foundation through Early Childhood Development.

CEI’s expert-led workshops will take place on July 11 at African Edu-Week and are free-to-attend for all visitors. Register now at www.educationweek.co.za and take advantage of this opportunity to learn from some of the most innovative education initiaties taking place across the continent.

This article has been made possible by the Mail & Guardian advertisers. Content has been supplied and signed off by the organisers of African EduWeek.