Mail & Guardian

Ramaphosa follows his passion

01 Nov 2010 11:42 | Alf James

Runner-up -- Corporate Award: Shanduka Foundation

When businessman Cyril Ramaphosa donated a fax machine to a school he attended as a young man, he came face to face with the myriad needs of the school and others like it.

He then mobilised other individuals and companies to help him contribute to the improvement of the school. This led to the establishment of the Adopt-a-School Foundation and, in 2004, the Shanduka Foundation, the vehicle through which the Shanduka Group, Ramaphosa's company, channels its social and community development initiatives.

Maureen Mphatsoe, group communications manager at Shanduka, says the foundation has three focus areas: improving schools, supporting emerging small enterprises and identifying needy students studying towards business-related qualifications. She says the foundation spent R12-million of its own funds and raised a further R23.7-million from other companies and individuals in 2009.

The decision to start the Adopt-a-School Foundation was based on the history of inequality in education, as well as the belief that children are the future and, therefore, education will ensure a better future for all. She says the schools selected must have strong leadership and active community involvement.

The aim is to improve the academic, infrastructural, social and security environment in the schools, ensuring a conducive environment for excellence in teaching and learning. "By training the teachers and principals and working with them to put a good management programme in place while involving the community, the school develops a sense of ownership and skills in maintenance and sustainability," Mphatsoe says.

Supporting small businesses has always been a key focus of the Shanduka Foundation, but it gained traction when the foundation was approached by Charles Maisel, who started the Black Umbrellas incubation centre in Cape Town and was looking for partners.

"We partnered him, mobilised other corporates to support this enterprise development initiative and today we have three Shanduka Black Umbrellas centres -- in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria.

"Entrepreneurs selected must have a proven level of skill and a business concept that is past the conceptual stage. People with skills who want to start or grow their businesses are encouraged to apply."

Entrepreneurs are mentored, trained and given all the tools they need to run a successful business. Once their business reaches a point of sustainability, they leave the programme to make way for new entrants.

The Cyril Ramaphosa Education Trust was started by the Shanduka chairman, who has a passion for education. Ramaphosa used the money he raised from speaking at different events to fund bursaries for deserving students.

The students have to be academically deserving and economically needy to qualify and they have to be studying towards a business qualification. They are mentored throughout their studies and have the opportunity to spend their vacations at Shanduka to gain experience.

Mphatsoe says that though Shanduka is a small company, with just over 50 employees, staff involvement in the projects is 100%. "Social responsibility is one of our core values and is part of our mission, which is 'Creating value and making a difference'.

"All Shanduka employees get involved and mobilise support for the work of the foundation wherever they go." Once a year the company closes its doors for a day and all employees help out at Olifantsvlei Primary School, a school the company has adopted under the Adopt-a-School programme.

"This brings excitement and motivation to the employees and has helped inculcate a culture of giving among them," Mphatsoe says. "The programme is fully endorsed by management and the visit to the school is always led by the chairman."

The judges for the Investing in the Future awards commented on how this drive permeated the company. They praised the partnerships the Shanduka Foundation had managed to leverage for social investment and were particularly impressed with the potential of the Black Umbrellas programme.

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