Working towards delivering transformative change with key partners following a similar long term vision for thriving and sustainable rural communities
- Not only do half of South African school-age children live in rural communities, but when compared to urban schools, rural schools struggle significantly to benefit from interventions to improve their performance and long-term outcomes for learners.
- Interventions focusing on Grade 3 and 9 attainment levels are key to a positive change in the education trajectory.
- Co-resourcing partnerships based on a clearer understanding of the envisaged change trajectory can strengthen both investment and resource mobilisation strategies.
- Co-resourcing partnerships can tap into multiple resources including technical knowledge of a problem, local community knowledge and an understanding of the requirements for meaningful change from the perspective of those directly affected.
BUILDING SUSTAINABLE AND THRIVING RURAL COMMUNITIES
Zenzele Itereleng (ZI) is a non-profit company founded in 2011 as part of an Anglo American Platinum (AAP) community empowerment initiative. Called Alchemy, this initiative provided a mechanism for a R 3,5 billion equity ownership scheme benefitting specific communities near AAPs operations and within its labour-sending areas. At the heart of Alchemy is a bold vision to facilitate development at a community level to ensure sustainable and thriving benefit communities through and beyond mining.
Within the Alchemy family, ZI has been charged with sustainable, long-term development in AAP’s labour-sending areas (LSAs) within South Africa, Mozambique, and Lesotho. In South Africa, these areas are in the Eastern Cape’s OR Tambo District and the Greater Taung Municipality in the North West Province.
WHY RURAL COMMUNITIES MATTER
Although only one in three South Africans lives in a rural area, nearly half of school-aged children live in these communities. Moreover, there is compelling evidence that rural children are more likely to come from households that are disproportionally impacted by poverty, unemployment, and inequality. Addressing the latter’s root causes often differs greatly in nature when compared to urban and peri-urban settings. Therefore, while a problem may share a label, such as underperforming schools, the fundamental nature and impact of such a problem in a rural community differs.
A WICKED PROBLEM: FAILING TO DELIVER QUALITY EDUCATION TO RURAL CHILDREN
It is well known that the wider challenges with basic education in South Africa are exacerbated by the deep inequality in rural communities. Unlike their urban peers, rural schools often do not have the same capacity to benefit from interventions developed to counteract underperformance and evolve the education system in line with future demands. The impact of this failure in the education system in rural communities is stark as it drives extreme unemployment, outward migration of youth, and the maintenance of conditions that promote intergenerational poverty.
Despite the complex interplay of multiple difficult-to-solve problems that characterise the situation, the practical question remains of how ZI can contribute within its bold mandate to create a sustained positive change in rural schools that support an overall positive life course trajectory for all rural children.
In partnering to help resolve this wicked problem, ZI required a unique resource partner, one with both deeper knowledge of the problem and the know-how to make appropriate and sustainable change within the context of rural communities in the Eastern Cape. With the assistance of Alchemy’s Lefa La Rona Trust, Zenzele Itereleng was introduced to such a partner in the Nelson Mandala Institute for Education and Rural Development at Fort Hare University.
THE NELSON MANDELA INSTITUTE PARTNERSHIP
The institute was founded by President Mandela in 2007. It pursues a critical vision for all South African children to read and write with meaning as well as work confidently with numbers as a fundamental outcome of their primary schooling. To facilitate this, the Institute focuses on new thinking and policy development for rural children in partnership with the Department of Basic Education and the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
Through its Interactive Community Profile for the OR Tambo District, ZI understood the critical requirement to improve the capacity of rural children to benefit from their foundation phase of schooling as they transitioned into their intermediate phase. Of similar importance is the successful transition from their intermediate to senior phase of schooling as it lays the groundwork to optimise their future options on leaving school.
Through its co-resourcing partnership with the Institute, ZI benefits both from the Institute’s deep knowledge as well as capacity to facilitate change. This in essence helps ZI better understand the challenges around the foundation and intermediate phase challenges across all the communities it serves, as well as tap into the Institute’s Magic Classroom Collective initiative in rural Eastern Cape schools.
In 2022, ZI entered into a three-year co-resourcing agreement with the Institute to target 2 100 Grade R to 3 children across 16 schools. In part, this partnership will help reduce the impact of the COVID pandemic on children’s maths performance. Given that Grades 3 and 9 both represent critical transitions in the life course of school children, the partnership has also been extended to the intermediate phase of schooling to reach an additional 1 500 learners. In total, the initiative will reach 16 800 children across its three years.
Image credits: Nelson Mandela Institute
CO-RESOURCING FRAMED WITHIN A POSITIVE LIFE COURSE TRAJECTORY
As part of the Alchemy Family, ZI is required to base its strategic focus and operations on a well-grounded situational analysis of the communities it serves. In 2020, Alchemy’s Community Development Trusts (CDTs) and ZI started to strengthen their approach to better understand the complex and difficult-to-solve problems in the communities they serve face. Drawing on Systems and Design Thinking, and an organising framework based on a life course approach, the CDTs and ZI developed Interactive Community Profiles (ICPs) for each geographic community they serve.
Coupled with its Impact by Design strategy, the OR Tambo District ICP gave ZI a clearer understanding of the promotive and risk factors related to education within the life course trajectory of children in OR Tambo District spanning their early learning, schooling and post-school concerns related to the NEET (not in employment, education, and training) problem.
Based on this understanding, ZI can work directly with those affected to better describe the specific requirements of interventions that will create meaningful local change. This also enables ZI to pursue specific co-resourcing opportunities to begin and sustain progress on a change trajectory that will promote a positive life course and mitigate negative events as they occur.
This approach directly supports Alchemy’s bold vision, by ensuring the CDTs and ZI’s social investments and resource mobilisation reduces the conditions of vulnerability in the communities severed to build thriving and sustainable communities through and beyond mining.
BEING OPEN TO DIVERSE RESOURCING OPPORTUNITIES
A narrow view of resource mobilisation might only focus on securing a direct funding or in-kind arrangement. However, local and national partnerships could offer resources that are equally important at a governance and operational level– specific and deep knowledge around a particular concern. Additionally, it allows ZI opportunities to explore a concern using an inter- and transdisciplinary approach to strengthen its open problem-solving processes. As such, access to such diverse resources is seen by ZI to play a critical role in its strategic positioning, investment decision-making, and delivery on tangible and sustained progress for its long-term goals.
Moreover, ZI’s pursuit of multi-dimensional co-resourcing opportunities provides the communities it serves access to new resource partners. By advocating for the use of actionable information and interventions that are well-grounded– in other words, that combine both technical knowledge with insights from those directly affected– ZI can help communities better understand their challenges and take a stronger position in directing resources for their benefit.