Trialogue Business in Society Conference 2024: ABC to CEO – supporting the learning journey

Trialogue Business in Society Conference 2024: ABC to CEO – supporting the learning journey

Trialogue Business in Society Conference 2024: ABC to CEO – supporting the learning journey

The future of the education system in South African is digital and Vodacom has a huge role to play in enabling this, Sitho Mdlalose, CEO of Vodacom South Africa, told delegates at the recent Trialogue Business in Society Conference 2024.

Mdlalose delivered the opening remarks for the Vodacom-sponsored theme ‘ABC to CEO: Supporting the Learning Journey’ on the first day of the conference, which is South Africa’s premiere corporate social responsibility event.

Vodacom uses technology to shape education from early learning to secondary school, and has provided 2,500 schools with access to the internet to date. “We have also rolled out a Schools of Excellence programme to 25 schools so far, in which learners are equipped with a computer centre and two ICT coordinators so they can build their digital skills, learning more about coding, robotics, and other future-focused subjects,” Mdlalose explained.

Beyond this, the company has eradicated pit latrines and provided on-site psychological counselling to learners at these Schools of Excellence, achieving one of the foundational principles of our Constitution: “to improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person”.

Mary Metcalfe, Professor of Practice at the University of Johannesburg, delivered the themed keynote address at the conference and pointed out that many young people are still not able to achieve their potential.

To remedy this, anyone investing in the education ecosystem has to “make every cent count” in a resource-constrained environment in which the triple ills of poverty, inequality and unemployment are proving difficult to eradicate.

In her keynote address, Metcalfe said companies have a tendency to shy away from working in provinces where the bulk of our learners are found, and where poverty is rife.

“The challenge is to work where’s it’s not easy work,” she said, adding that companies should seek to address inequality and poor quality, rather than focus on “vanity projects” that have a superficial approach.

She recommended that companies commit to a rigorous, evidence-based approach to learn what really works, seek to build capacity, and share learnings by collaborating with other stakeholders. This will make it easier to scale for greater impact.

Metcalfe called for better coordination in the sector.

“We need to support collaborative learning initiatives, so we do not duplicate our efforts, and we have to build on what works,” she said.

Although Metcalfe decried vanity projects, she said we sometimes need “starfish” projects from which to learn, but when collaborating we have to ask if we have really listened and co-designed.

“We need the courage to fund replicable models and capacity in the system,” she concluded.

Lessons in collaboration

In the panel discussing under the theme, the importance of collaboration was highlighted.

Takalani Netshitenzhe, director of external affairs at Vodacom South Africa, said companies need to partner with the government if they want to make a meaningful contribution.

“We do not have expertise in pedagogy,” she pointed out. “We have ‘adopted’ schools, but they belong to the government. In partnership with the Department of Basic Education and the Department of Social Development, we use our expertise in ICT to help deliver quality education.”

The impact has been notable, said panellist Khazamula Chauke, principal at the Dr WF Nkomo Secondary School in Atteridgeville – one of Vodacom’s Schools of Excellence.

Chauke said two major improvements include the fact that educators are no longer playing the role of social worker, and children can explore STEM careers they may not have considered previously.

“Virtual classrooms were a gamechanger for us,” he explained. “If an educator is off due to illness, a virtual teacher in an ICT centre can step in and teach more than one class.”

With all this support, “Why not pass?” he asked.

Solving “wicked problems” in education

Vodacom partners with non-profit organisations to achieve certain outcomes – for example, The Learning Trust delivers quality after-school services, which feeds into the broader aim of uplifting the education ecosystem.

“Such partnerships help to solve some of the ‘wicked problems’ in education, which are not easily solved and require sustained collaboration,” said Sibongile Khumalo, executive director of The Learning Trust.

Kanyisa Diamond, head of systems capacity support and advisory at the National Education Collaboration Trust, said capacitating stakeholders can ensure continuity of impact if a funder steps aside from a programme for whatever reason. “We must locate responsibility where it must be maintained in order to sustain,” she pointed out.

The panellists agreed that long-term support for schools and learners ensures a “slow bake” rather than “microwaving” – the effect of coming into a school and focusing on one area for improvement rather than looking at the entire learning ecosystem. Education requires systemic change, and this requires sustained collaboration by a multitude of partners, they noted.

Tags: local news

Our Top Recruiters

Get to know the top recruiters and talent acquisition specialists who are dedicated to helping you find your next career move, freelance gig, or internship opportunity.

Get New Jobs Notification!

Sign up with your email address to receive news and updates. Subscribe to get our latest content by email. We respect your privacy, Unsubscribe at any time.