Teaching the teachers adds up

Bidvest is an international services, trading and distribution company listed on South Africa’s JSE. It operates a diversified, highly entrepreneurial business model. Brian Joffe founded the group in 1988, and it expanded internationally in 1995; it now employs more than 143 000 people and operates on five continents. The?foodservice business is the largest in the world outside of North America. 

“Our vision is to empower people through education, skills and enterprise development, contributing to the upliftment of South Africans,” says Kevin Handelsman of the Bidvest Foundation. “We believe that this is directly in line with the [UN’s] Sustainable Development Goals regarding education.” 

Systemic research conducted by the department of basic education and international studies confirmed that pupils throughout South Africa were underperforming in the field of mathematics. The department’s Johannesburg East District contacted non-profit developmental organisation ORT SA regarding an urgent need to improve the mathematics performance of pupils in Alexandra. ORT SA then approached Bidvest, requesting funding for a project to provide textbooks and workbooks for each pupil and teacher in the identified Alexandra schools. ORT SA provided intensive training and classroom-based support to ensure effective implementation. This was the first time that each pupil in Alexandra was provided with a textbook and a workbook.

ORT SA, works to develop teachers, youth, businesses and communities by improving standards of education, so that all can achieve a better life. For ORT SA, education is more than basic schooling. It’s about empowerment and support. Only then can poverty be eradicated and meaningful lives created.

ORT SA is affiliated to World ORT, which was established in 1880 and is one of the biggest education nongovernmental organisations in the world. ORT SA was established in South Africa in 1936 as a fundraising entity and became an operational organisation in 1994.

The Bidvest–ORT maths programme has touched the lives of 526 teachers, school management teams and 20 000 pupils, with more than 100 000 pupils indirectly benefiting. The programme will benefit 23 670 pupils in 2015 alone. The documented success of the project after assessment by external evaluations, the feedback from department of basic education and testimonials from the schools and the community testify to the significant impact the project has had on improving the teaching and learning of mathematics in Alexandra.

Bidvest has provided funding to the tune of R15-million for the Bidvest-ORT maths programme since its inception in 2007, which includes books and resources for teachers, pupils’ books (from 2008 until 2012) and laptops to teachers (from 2013 until 2015) as well as maths and computer training, a mentorship programme, functions and classroom-based support.

The programme has not only enhanced the understanding of maths and numeracy among the pupils, it has also empowered the teachers involved. Every year ORT SA continues to expand the opportunities for teachers from Alexandra to participate in and present papers at relevant conferences. Over the past three years, several excellent teachers who received ORT STAR awards have participated in the “Inspired Teacher’s Conference”.