Kagiso Trust, the organisation set up by churches during apartheid to channel funds and uplift communities, has novel plans for township schools the government has closed because they no longer attract pupils: “Turn them into affordable private schools offering quality education.”
Reverend Frank Chikane, who cofounded Kagiso Trust in 1985 and has now returned to serve as its chairperson, spoke at a press briefing in Johannesburg on Thursday about the trust’s current work and its history – this year is its 30th anniversary.
He said that after 1994 Kagiso decided to work with the government to “deal with the legacy of apartheid”. “It means you’re free but the victims of apartheid have constraints, and whatever we do is to get rid of those constraints.”
He added that, “if you sort out education, people participate in the economy much better. We’d like to deal with all those mountains that people have to climb.”
Kgotso Schoeman, chief executive of Kagiso Capital, the new investment company of Kagiso Trust, said it planned to open affordable private schools in townships.
“You know there are schools in the townships that are empty. People are leaving townships to go to Johannesburg with the hope that they will get quality education,” he said.
“We’ve started [talking to] MECs in the different provinces [to say] we would like to lease some of their properties and take affordable private education into the townships.”
A number of schools in townships such as Soweto have closed over the years. As the number of pupils dwindles, the government merges schools in the same vicinity.
“I had a conversation with our driver at work. He spends about R800 per month on transport to take his children from the township to [school in] town,” Schoeman said. “It’s a huge expense. And that’s besides the fees that he pays. If you put that together he’s probably spending between R2 500 and R3 000 a month to access education in town. The concern for us is that some of the schools in town are fly-by-night and parents don’t know. Our intention is really to go into this space. We think there is huge growth opportunity.”
Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi has expressed concern about the performance of some of these schools and threatened to withdraw government subsidies.
Schoeman said: “The middle class in this country is going to pay for good, quality education for their children. We want to be part of the story. What’s important is making it affordable, and that’s what we want to bring.”
He added that Kagiso’s plan would materialise “quite soon. Definitely before the end of this year there could be major announcements, no doubt about it. Discussions with some of the players in education are at an advanced stage.”